Robin Cook.

Lingering questions about Robin Cook's death


I would rather not be having these thoughts but, as I am, I reckon it's time to commit them to writing.  This extended entry builds upon 'Robin Cook, the Database and Secrets', which itself derived from 'Warning to Labour Politicians' (and the thread began with 'John Prescott and National Security').  It raises questions about Robin Cook's death, ones I've not seen addressed elsewhere.  In life, I was never Cooky's biggest fan.  But if there were the slightest possibility that his death was not naturally caused, then the man deserves better than for the official version to be believed without question. 

It's been about 9 months since the passing of Robin Cook MP.  I have suggested previously that, one month before he died, Cook may have started to divulge confidential information, despite having signed the Official Secrets Act.  His sudden and unexpected death might have saved MI6/MI5/DIS/whomever from having to resolve the problem of how to stop him doing it again.

The recent Prescott affair had alerted me to the strange possibility that undercover MI5 officers or agents might have been working as diary secretaries for some senior Labour Party politicians.  And that brought, reluctantly, Gaynor Regan to mind;  she had become Robin Cook's diary secretary around 1994, the year he had become shadow foreign secretary.  Such diary secretaries - Tracey Temple, too - would have to be vetted and to have signed the Official Secrets Act.  Once my mind began to question whether Gaynor Regan really had been all that she had appeared to be, then other questions about the circumstances of Robin Cook's death followed, ones that I had discounted at the time because, after all, he was with her when he died and it was all a terrible tragedy.

But. for example, how did he die?  The post mortem took two days "to establish whether the Livingston MP had died from an illness or injuries sustained in the fall", and the cause of death was eventually given as 'hypertensive heart disease'.  No mention was made of any injuries to the head and neck.  Yet most early press reports indicated that, after having had a heart attack, he had fallen down a ridge and had broken his neck.   The spokesman for RAF Kinloss air rescue centre said that Robin Cook had been winched up to the helicopter from "... close to the summit.  That part of Ben Stack is very steep, monster steep and very rocky."  I reckon it'd be a bit surprising if there were no head or neck injuries at all if a body fell, as a dead-weight, down that rocky ridge.  But the official story was sudden death by heart disease.

When did he die?  There are conflicting accounts, not helped by the fact that the announcement of his death was delayed by three hours for family and friends to be informed.  Officially, he was pronounced dead at 4.05pm, soon after being brought at the hospital in Inverness.  But all reports said Gaynor and a fellow hill-walker gave Cook artificial resuscitation for 30-40 minutes, instructed via mobile phone, until the chopper arrived.  I'm no medic, but if he needed resuscitating then he probably died not long after he collapsed, around 2.20pm, before even the emergency services were called. 

Who were the so-far unidentified group of walkers (or hunters(?)) who, we were told, came to Gaynor Cook's aid?  If it's not an obvious question, what were they doing on Ben Stack?  For, according to the landlady of Scourie Lodge, where the Cooks had spent their last night,

"She was lucky another walker was in the area to be with her at such a time.

"You could be on Ben Stack ninety times and not see a soul, so for someone to be within shouting distance and with a mobile phone was very fortunate."

Indeed.  Although most reports spoke of a 'group of walkers', in this Times article there was only one.

Neither of the Cooks was carrying a mobile phone but Mrs Cook's cries for help were answered by a walker, who called the emergency services at about 2.23pm.

Between them, Mrs Cook, 48, and the man, who has not been named, gave Mr Cook mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and chest compressions under the telephone guidance of Inverness ambulance staff, until rescuers arrived by Coastguard helicopter at 3.01pm.

How come that heroic walker kept his anonymity?   Did he, at least, give a statement to police?  What about the party he belonged to, mentioned by the Sunday Times, the Herald and many others?  I find it odd that no one in that group of walkers spoke to, or was spoken to by, anyone in the media or, as far as we know, the police.  Was even their nationality ever revealed?

Robin Cook chose an extremely remote place to die, far away from London, and the story was over before the press could send anyone to cover it.  I doubt any journalist was sent to climb Ben Stack to see the place the former foreign secretary had died.  (I haven't either, but I'm just a blogger in London.)  Someone who has walked up Ben Stack described it thus:

Although the walk doesn't cover much distance and can easily completed in half a day, there are a couple of ridges to be negotiated near, and at, the top.

Presumably Robin Cook collapsed at that first ridge, before the summit.  If he had been taken ill before they'd reached that narrow pass, it's unlikely he would have suffered any head or neck injuries [see photos of Ben Stack] when falling.  So his collapse couldn't have occured at a more dangerous or inopportune place. 

Although Ben Stack is as remote as can be, it is strangely linked back to London, back to Westminster even, through its ownership.  The mountain is situated within the extensive Reay Forest estate, which belongs to the hyper-rich Duke of Westminster.  It's used for deer-stalking, shooting, and fishing, etc.  The duke owns vast amounts of British land and is our wealthiest aristocrat by far.  But he's also devoted much of his working life to the armed forces, in particular to the reservist Territorial Army, of which he is a Major-General and its most senior officer.  He's been to Basra, Iraq, five times since the invasion.  He currently serves as Assistant Chief of Defence Staff (Reserves) at the Ministry of Defence.  The ultimate insider.  According to the MoD website:

The military runs through the Duke of Westminster like the lettering in a stick of rock.  His family has served in the Cheshire Yeomanry, since they founded it hundreds of years ago.  His father, grandfather and great grandfather all wore the cap badge. (...)

The Duke, who is 53, divides his working day (and frequently the evenings) between his desk in Main Building [at the MoD] and his private office.  He also spends as much time as he can visiting reserve units across the country and on operations all over the world.

So, Robin Cook died on land owned by a senior MoD official.  Given Cooky's views on the Iraq war, I really doubt he would have appreciated the irony.

(One more curiosity about Ben Stack, which I'm almost sure is totally irrelevant but I'll mention it out of ignorance anyway.  Someone who has walked up, photographed and written about Ben Stack finishes their account of it with this....

The final oddity on the summit is a cairn with its own omnidirectional radio antenna.

No, I don't know what an omnidirectional radio antenna is, either, but I'm curious that it's described as an oddity, so I thought I'd mention it anyway.  If anyone can elucidate, please leave a comment.)

After Robin Cook died, the local police released a statement:  "As this would appear to be a medical matter, there is no further police involvement."  "Appear to be"?  Case closed, before it was even opened.  A high-profile former foreign secretary, who had maybe started to spill official secrets, dies unexpectedly, maybe of a broken neck, on land owned by an MoD insider, with an unidentified man, or group, nearby, and the police decide not to get involved.  Probably wise of them, just as I probably shouldn't be writing this down, and you probably shouldn't be reading it.

P.S. [2006.05.19]  Please see later entries:  'Addenda to 'Lingering Questions...' and 'Robin Cook's Mobile Phone'.