Anthrax suspect commits suicide

A biodefense researcher committed suicide this week, just as the US government was about to indict him for the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and caused a national panic. The microbiologist, Bruce E. Ivins, whose death was first reported today (August 1) in the linkurl:Los Angeles Times,;http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-anthrax1-2008aug01,0,2864223.story?page=1, was a top scientist at a US Army biodefense research facility in Fort Detrick, Md., where he worked

Aug 1, 2008
Alla Katsnelson
A biodefense researcher committed suicide this week, just as the US government was about to indict him for the 2001 anthrax attacks that killed five people and caused a national panic. The microbiologist, Bruce E. Ivins, whose death was first reported today (August 1) in the linkurl:Los Angeles Times,;http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-anthrax1-2008aug01,0,2864223.story?page=1, was a top scientist at a US Army biodefense research facility in Fort Detrick, Md., where he worked on developing an anthrax vaccine. He was also closely involved in analyzing samples from the 2001 attacks. Ivins's suicide comes just a month after the US government paid out $5.8 million to settle a lawsuit brought by linkurl:Steven J. Hatfill,;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54807/ a biodefense researcher and colleague of Ivins and long the unofficial primary suspect in the case despite the absence of clear evidence. According to the Times, Army officials had questioned Ivins in 2001 because he had failed to report anthrax contaminations found in his office between December 2001 and April 2002. Ivins claimed that the contamination resulted from a lab technician's accidental spills, and he was not disciplined for keeping the spills secret. Investigators began to focus their suspicions on Ivins after a new team of investigators took charge of the anthrax case in late 2006, and began reexamining old leads. "He buckled under government pressure," Ivins's brother told the Times. He had not been publically named as a suspect in the case, however. According to the linkurl:Associated Press;http://www.nytimes.com/aponline/us/AP-Anthrax-Scientist.html?ref=us&pagewanted=print, the FBI was investigating whether Ivins had released the anthrax in order to test a vaccine he had developed. Government officials are expected to announce in the next several days whether his death will mean the close the investigation, or whether they believe Ivins acted with others, the AP reports.