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REPORT FROM THE INQUEST OF DUNCAN ROBERTSON, INFILTRATOR (20/6/13)

by Dr Larry O'Hara 23/6/13

On 20/6/13 myself and NFB colleague Paul Stott  made our way into the tiny but historic St Pancras coroner's court to witness the last sorry episode in the tragic life of Duncan Robertson (hereafter DR), a predominantly Searchlight-controlled infiltrator into various far right groups, most notably the British National Party (BNP) and latterly National Front (NF).  Few others were there: apart from Assistant Coroner Selena Lynch and her staff, the only other people in attendance were Mr and Mrs Gable and a London Ambulance Service paramedic.  The extraordinary way in which Paul and myself were treated we will mention another day.  Only two witnesses were called: Gerry Gable and paramedic Lee Davis.  So perfunctory were proceedings, the whole thing ended at 10.26am: approximately 32 seconds for each year of his miserable life. 

The article that follows only makes sense if you have read the earlier piece--Duncan Robertson Sad Life Mysterious Death--also on this site.  Do so if you haven’t, and if that’s too difficult this web-site clearly isn’t for you, twitter off to You-Tube…This article has four sections: what was learnt at the inquest, what wasn't raised properly but should have been, who wasn't there to either observe or be questioned, and finally a reprise of questions that still need answering/areas requiring investigation.

(1) WHAT WAS LEARNT

Though some of what came out was already known to us, the advantage of the inquest (and being there!) was confirmation, and some further detail.  DR’s date of birth was 13/4/64 in Leith, Scotland, and his last address was flat 2 31 Granby Street London E2.   Interestingly, Gerry Gable was keen to emphasise how fleeting had been DR’s residence at that address.  Though he died in University College London Hospital on 19/3/13 at 6.30am, this was due to a paracetamol overdose, taken by DR while resident at the Tavistock Hotel Russell Square WC1.  He told paramedic Lee Davis that at 3am on 18/3 he had taken 140 tablets.  Inasmuch as the ambulance service was only called at 12.30pm, nine hours later, the seeds of DR’s demise were laid then.  He told Davis he had taken another overdose a week earlier,  though this was not followed up by the coroner in any detail.  Davis (whose evidence and probity was exemplary, as befits somebody doing a job I once did…) stated DR, who was conscious and sentient when the paramedic arrived, told him it was a deliberate attempt to end his own life, and handed a letter to the ambulance crew who took DR to hospital.  It is worth remarking here that as few as 30 tablets can result in death: given DR’s underlying history of chronic alcoholism and concomitant liver problems, his fatality is no surprise. N/Acetylcystine, the antidote, only really works in the early stages [1].   That DR was hypoglycaemic when admitted could have been transient, or perhaps one more factor leading to a poor prognosis.  Certainly, the fact a Dr Choudhury of the Royal London Hospital diabetes department submitted a report to the coroner on leg ulcers DR was treated for might indicate underlying diabetes.  DR’s GP when he lived in Croydon (Dr Wells of Wrythe Green Surgery) provided useful background on the chronic nature of DR’s alcohol problems—drinking 150 units per week, and the fact he took an overdose a number of years ago, reporting suicidal feelings in January 2012. He last saw anybody at that surgery in September 2012, and if he did have a GP in East London, the coroner does not seem to have found them.  DR was last prescribed (un-named) anti-depressants in September 2012, from Dr Wells at least.

As if DR didn’t have enough psychiatric problems, reference must be made to the physical problems caused by an underground accident in the 1990s, which left him in severe pain.  Or should I perhaps say apparently—because no medical reports mentioned prescribed analgesia, when it would surely have been relevant.  This chronic condition is what you might call Gable’s ‘get out of jail’ card regarding his duty of care (lack of) towards DR.  The coroner was fully in accordance with this script, her concluding verdict (or rather premise) being “he made a choice against the background of a long history of depression—there was a cloud hanging over him, a long hospital stay in December brought him to his knees psychologically….he killed himself while suffering from depression”.   All straightforward, you might think: except it’s not, by a long chalk.

(2) UNASKED/FUDGED QUESTIONS

These are so numerous, I will put them in list form

1) The precise nature of Gerry Gable’s relationship with DR was glossed over, instead he was present merely as a close friend and ersatz relative in place of his real ones who (perhaps conveniently) could not be contacted.  While DR was described as a “research journalist” the stressful nature of that research was not mentioned, never mind explored.  It should have been: for without exploring in detail the stresses on DR occasioned by his line of work, that his infiltration contributed to suicide cannot be ruled out.  Which is where the duty of care argument comes in.

2) Gerry Gable was referred to as the Executor of DR’s will: I’m sure he is.  What we want to know, and surely relevant, is whether he, or Searchlight (the same thing) are beneficiaries, and if so, to the tune of how much?  DR’s accommodation seems to have been rented, part of a property split into 4 flats.  If he owned it (unlikely but possible) there would be some serious capital involved: the address next door at 30 Granby Street sold for £470,000 in November 2011 [2]

3) Why exactly DR checked into the Tavistock Hotel in the first place, given he had a home already?  My view, for what it’s worth, is he checked in to die, the whole thing having been pre-planned for weeks, which would point to Gable foreknowledge.  The purpose of dying elsewhere is to prevent Granby Street becoming a crime-scene, thus allowing Gerry unfettered access to DR’s papers.  Which would also explain the haste with which Gerry intervened to emphasise how little DR had stayed at the flat.  Or, alternatively, had DR checked into the Tavistock because his home address was unsafe?  I ask because of a rumour (which as yet I don’t give credence to but needs airing) that he was beaten up by persons unknown around this time?

4) The exact timing of the will in relation to when, exactly, DR moved to the Tavistock Hotel (his check out date is of course a matter of public record).  In the May 2013 Searchlight, Gable claims that “when Duncan dropped out of sight he asked me to ask as executor of his will”  (p.7).  This was stated as being in November 2012.  Does this tally with the will date?

5) The question of whether DR or the hotel staff called the ambulance service: surely important as regards intention, but seemingly not so for this coroner.

6) Any foreknowledge of DR’s intention to commit suicide on the part of Gerry Gable (or indeed both Gables).  Gerry was initially very hesitant when asked the most obvious question “when did you last see him alive?”.  After some bluster “I’m trying to get this right in my head” Gerry eventually came up with “the 14th or 15th” (of March).  Less than three days before DR took what was to be his fatal overdose, and only a few days after the earlier overdose.  You know, the one Lee Davis reported.    

7) This mention by Davis of an earlier attempt should have made Gerry squirm, but he was helped out massively by the coroner on the issue of foreknowledge.  At the start of his evidence, in response to a question about foreknowledge, Gerry gave a bland answer that DR was “extremely depressed after Christmas…I said to him get yourself fit and then attend hospital”.  Despite Gable recounting frequent meetings/dinners with DR at the Tavistock in the weeks leading up to his death suicide was allegedly not discussed, though “on one occasion he said he might have been better off if he had died under the train…I suggested to him to keep going”.  Gable went on to deny any foreknowledge. At the crucial point in Lee Davis’ evidence, mention of the recent suicide attempt, instead of properly confronting Gable regarding the absurdity of DR not discussing that attempt at least with him, the coroner Ms Lynch, disgracefully in my view, abandoned even a pretence of impartiality.  She asked Gable did he have any questions for Davis.  Somewhat taken aback by what Davis had said, Gable blubbered “if there had been an earlier attempt…I had seen him in the week before” and then petered into silence, probably fearful of self-incrimination.  The coroner, unbelievably, simply moved on.  Now, I am well aware relatives, rightly, can ask questions in inquests: but Gable was not a relative as such, he had another role as DR’s controller in a very stressful job, and a duty of care he seems to have disregarded as blithely as an empty beer can.

(3) ABSENT GUESTS: WHO WASN’T THERE OF INTEREST

Aside from any who might have been called as witnesses, three categories of person were not in attendance First, no fascists were present.  Perhaps their counter-intelligence capabilities are not that sophisticated. Or maybe some of a pugilistic nature had good reason to duck out.  Second, there were no police or intelligence service personnel. Given Robertson's career and demise there probably should have been: though this skeleton the state does not want rattled.  Not attending, of course, allows interested parties to hide behind the coroner and her verdict. The third category of missing person is of course journalists.  Readers of Notes From the Borderland magazine (and this site) will already know  of my evidence-based contempt for The Guardian and all its works.  Currently, one of their ‘top boys’ Paul Lewis is luxuriating in accolades arising from covering stories about undercover cops, indeed next month his book (co-written with Rob Evans) on that topic is published, trailed this very weekend in The Guardian by the old news presented as new that infiltrator cop Bob Lambert helped co-write the leaflet for which the McLibel Two were prosecuted.  Fact is though, unless I’ve missed something, none of these cops actually committed suicide (though anybody forced to listen to Mark Kennedy’s self-piteous whining might be forgiven for doing so).  My last article name-checked Paul Lewis and Rob Evans suggesting they might take an interest (or maybe not).   My indefatigable colleague David Pegg went further—on 6/6/13 he phoned up Paul Lewis and alerted him to the DR story on this site, which Lewis quickly found.  Sadly, the most significant question from Lewis concerned not DR, but the classic Special Branch type question “who are you funded by?”.   That he asked this question does not mean he works for the cops: but does show a paucity of journalistic endeavour.  It really is not good enough for the likes of Lewis to look the other way, ignoring an inquest that was held only 900 yards or so away from The Guardian’s office!  Yet he did, as too his colleagues.  While this is not the space to develop it here, the Met Police have long used cut outs like the Community Security Trust and Searchlight to out-source their intelligence-gathering/spookery.  That the likes of Lewis and Evans want to ignore this does not mean serious investigative researchers should.  As always, it seems The Guardian is about policing the parameters of political dissent, ignoring certain types of intelligence-gathering as they seek to incorporate radicals into an information-sharing nexus of their own, while The Guardian cultivates its own channels of information sharing with the Met’s upper echelons, via Alan Rusbridger and Nick Davies at least.  More on all this next NFB

Returning to witnesses. any rigorous inquest would have heard from

i) the “friends in High Wycombe” with whom DR spent the New Year

ii) His GP: especially as DR seems to have not been referred to any psychiatrist recently, despite recent presentations at hospital, albeit for physical ailments.  Rather strange omission for somebody so depressed it features on his death certificate: not so strange if you want to distract attention from occupational stress.  The GP might have been able to offer an informed (as opposed to the coroner’s highly speculative) opinion on how exactly an accident nearly 20 years earlier contributed to DR’s suicide. 

iii) The staff at the hotel, to provide detail on when DR checked in/why, his general demeanour, and of course those final days/hours

iv) Others who DR may have/did spy for, Hope Note Hate Special Branch & the CST I’d have all liked to see questioned.

v) The last omission is perhaps the most staggering—Gerry’s wife Sonia, described along with him by DR as one of “my friends and closest colleagues” was present in the court but not asked to testify.  The court-room was architecturally Victorian, but is it really the case that a husband nowadays is still legally assumed to speak on behalf of his wife?  How quaint, or rather unbelievable.

It is worthy of note that two other inquests were scheduled for that morning, and the show only lasting 26 minutes highlights that from the start the coroner did not intend the important lacunae in DR’s life, work, and final days, to be explored.  She might well say this was because there was indeed nothing untoward, but by leaving the politics out of it Lynch precluded herself from exploring those lacunae.  As too did Dr Sheila Radcliffe, who signed the interim death certificate but dodged a bullet by making sure she was on the subs bench for the main event.  That this was emphatically no ordinary death (or life) can be gleaned from DR as a ‘Searchlight Intelligence Officer’ appearing on the front cover of May’s Searchlight, sadly (for them) published after Notes From the Borderland had already broken the story.  Selena Lynch seems too intelligent to be unaware of this broader context, yet the inquest was conducted as though it was of no consequence.  NFB has our interpretation of why this was so, you draw your own conclusions.  As a Deputy Coroner for the Royal Household, Ms Lynch is a safe pair of hands from an Establishment perspective.  Somewhat ironically perhaps, she recently authored a Memorandum arguing for the integrity of independent coronial investigation [3]. Would that this case had been so treated...

(4) QUESTIONS REQUIRING ANSWERS STILL

This list owes something to the previous article, though some questions therein have been answered, up to a point.

A) When did the Met Police, Community Security Trust and Hope Not Hate last have dealings with Robertson?

B) Did DR disclose to hotel staff in particular (or any mentioned in A) notions of self-harm?

C) Did DR actually take an overdose a week earlier?  After all, strange thing for a man about to die to lie about.  And Davis described DR as conscious and “fully sentient” at this time.  Paracetamol overdose rarely leads to loss of consciousness until the later stages, and no evidence was proferred that DR was inebriated at this point.

D) Regarding duty of care, in page 34 of ‘At War With Society’ (1993), an account of Searchlight operative Tim Hepple (see elsewhere this site for a dissection of his career by me) Gable states Searchlight “consulted a psychiatrist” regarding Hepple’s mental state.  Why was this not done for Robertson, a ten year veteran, when it was apparently done for Hepple?  Or if it was done, why no mention in the coroner’s court?

E) Who exactly benefits from DR’s will, to what amount, and how does the dating of it fit in with the chronology of DR’s movements?

F) Why exactly did DR check in the Tavistock Hotel?  The view of staff there/others who weren’t his handlers are crucial here.

G) Why did DR’s suicide note have no date on it?

H) Why did the coroner dispose of such a complex and troubling case in 26 minutes, calling as the only witness who knew the deceased his main operational handler, though pointedly not questioning him about that relationship and how it may have contributed to DR’s death?

A final thought: think of the uproar if the only people called to give evidence in the Gareth Williams or Litvinenko deaths had been their MI6 handlers.  Yet the equivalent of this (aside from the paramedic who only met him on a call) was deemed acceptable here.  Is the fact that Robertson was not rich, but an alcoholic and depressed social misfit adequate excuse for denying him a proper inquest?  We demur: more on all this, soon…

REFERENCES

[1]  see A Zezulka & N Wright ‘Severe metabolic acidosis early in paracetamol poisoning’ British Medical Journal Vol. 285 25/9/82 p.851-2, and Medicines Regulatory Health Authority ‘Paracetamol overdose: new guidance on treatment with intravenous acetylcsteine’ September 2012

[2] see www.zoopla.co.uk for this information.

[3] see http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200809/jtselect/jtrights/57/57we15.htm

 

 

 

 

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