Consider the peculiar death of Peter Peapell, found dead beneath his car in
the garage of his Oxfordshire home. Peapell, 46, worked for the Royal Military
College of Science, a world authority on communications technology, electronics
surveillance and target detection. Peapell was an expert at using computers to
process signals emitted by metals. His work reportedly included testing titanium
for its resistance to explosives.
On the night of February 22, 1987, Peapell spent an enjoyable evening out with his wife, Maureen, and their friends. When they returned home, Maureen went straight to bed, leaving Peter to put the car away.
When Maureen woke up the next morning, she discovered that Peter had not come to bed. She went looking for him. When she reached the garage, she noticed that the door was closed. Yet she could hear the car's engine running.
She found her husband lying on his back beneath the car, his mouth directly below the tail pipe. She pulled him into the open air, but he was already dead.
Initially, Maureen thought her husband's death an accident. She presumed he'd gotten under the car to investigate a knocking he'd heard driving home the night before, and that he'd gotten stuck. But the light fixture in the garage was broken, and Peter hadn't been carrying a flashlight.
Police had their own suspicions. A constable the same height and wieght as Peter Peapell found it impossible to crawl under the car when the garage door was closed. He also found it impossible to close the door once he was under the car.
Carbon deposits from the inside of the garage door showed that the engine had been running only a short time. Yet, Mrs. Peapell had found the body almost seven hours after she'd gone to bed.
The coroner's inquest could not determine whether the death was a homicide, a suicide or an accident. According to Maureen Peapell, Peter had no reason to kill himself. They had no marital or financial problems. Peter loved his job. He'd just received a sizable raise, and according to colleagues, he'd exhibited "absolutely no signs of stress." Did 22 SDI Researchers really ALL Commit Suicide?
February 22, 1987: Peter Peapell, 46
--Expertise: Scientist at the Royal College of Military Science. He had been working on testing titanium for it's resistance to explosives and the use of computer analysis of signals from metals.
--Circumstance of Death: Found dead allegedly from carbon monoxide poisoning, in his Oxfordshire garage. The circumstances of his death raised some elements of doubt. His wife had found him on his back with his head parallel to the rear car bumper and his mouth in line with the exhaust pipe, with the car engine running. Police were apparently baffled as to how he could have manoeuvred into the position in which he was found.
--Coroner's verdict: Open.