20 year old Ronald Maddison was an R.A.F. engineer who, like thousands of others, jumped at the chance to be part of what he was told would be research into the common cold virus. For 15 shillings and an extra 3 days of leave, Maddison travelled to the British Army's testing facility at Porton Down.
He and 4 other men entered a sealed chamber where drops of Sarin nerve gas were placed on his sleeve. Although he was wearing a respirator, Maddison began to convulse and suffer from what appeared to be an asthma attack. Despite being removed from the chamber, injected with counter measures, Maddison complained of being unable to hear and was taken by ambulance for medical help. By that point however, the Sarin had stopped his body's normal respiratory actions and his brain and muscles were starved of oxygen, causing his death.
At the time, an inquest into his death was held in secret and a verdict of 'death by misadventure' was passed by the coroner. The MOD contributed £40 towards the cost of Maddison's funeral expenses. Not until the 2004 inquest Operation Antler were the full facts disclosed and in 2006, the MOD awarded Maddison's relatives £100,000. The original verdict of the first inquest into his death in 1953 had ascribed his death to 'misadventure.' Labour MP Tom Dalyell who campaigned for many years for a new inquest summed up the case in starkly chilling terms to the Houses of Parliament.
"Ronald Maddison thought he was part of an experiment to find a cure for the common cold. He was offered 14 days' leave and £15 was put in his pocket, he was injected and he died."
Sarin gas was the substance used by Japanese 'death cult' Aum Shinrikyo in their attack on the Tokyo subway in 1995 - which left 13 people dead and several hundreds with vision problems and other severe effects.
Inquest verdict quashed on Porton Down death The High Court today gave the go-ahead for a fresh inquest on a young serviceman who died nearly 50 years ago during nerve gas tests at Porton Down research centre.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-147910/Inquest-verdict-quashed-Porton-Down-death.html [Daily Mail]