Alan Turing | News | Peter Tatchell | United Kingdom

Was Alan Turing Murdered By British Security Services?

Although Alan Turing — the famous British World War II codebreaker who helped thwart the Nazis and was later prosecuted for being gay — recently received a royal pardon for "gross indecency," British gay activist Peter Tatchell wants an inquiry into Turing's death, as he suspects that Turing may have been murdered by British security services rather than committed suicide as previously thought.

TurningAfter what Tatchell calls a "perfunctory and inadequate" inquest of Turing's death, Turing's cause of death was reportedly self-poisoning through ingestion of a cyanide-laced apple.

However, Tatchell says that during the homophobic and xenophobic political atmosphere of the 1950s "the security services would have been very fearful that Turing [and his gay life were] vulnerable to blackmail and anxious that he might pass information [regarding his 'expert knowledge of code breaking, advanced mathematics and computer science'] to the Soviets."

Tatchell adds that, "Although there is no evidence that Turing was murdered by state agents, the fact that this possibility has never been investigated is a major failing... A new inquiry is long overdue, even if only to dispel any doubts about the true cause of his death.”

Turing's punishment for "gross indecency" was to undergo chemical castration to diminish his sex drive — a hormone therapy that rendered him impotent and caused him to develop breasts. Nevertheless, reports, "There was nothing in Turing’s final days to suggest he was in despair. He had left a note on his office desk the Friday before he died reminding himself of tasks to be done after the weekend."

Turing has experienced a recent resurgence in popularity. In addition to the royal pardon, the famed cryptoanalyst has also received a statue of himself in Paddington, London; an upcoming movie about his life as well as a petition to get him on the £10 note.

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  1. It would have to be a judicial inquiry with full access to all documents whatsoever, no matter how classified. And would have to include testimony from all living fellow workers, the Security handlers of the case and the heads of MI5 at the time.
    Many of these could be long dead.
    But an opening of all classified documents to a Judge would establish whether such covert operations were ever proposed.

    It does all smack a bit of the "Diana conspiracy" to me.,,,,,,but that's all the more reason it should be investigated, just as the death of Dr. Kelly was, after the Iraq inquiry.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Dec 30, 2013 10:47:57 AM

  2. I doubt that Turing was murdered. The poor soul was likely driven to suicide after the terrible thing that the government did to him.
    Like most genius' and great men, he was not fully appreciated until many years after he died.

    Posted by: David From Canada | Dec 30, 2013 10:55:32 AM

  3. And has Tatchell got a license from Conspiracy Theories Licenses, Inc., to set up shop and peddle his theory for fun and profit? Or is he planning on running an unincorporated, privately held theory?

    With the currently saturated conspiracy theory market (remember, the Kennedy Assassination has held an 85% share of the market since its inception on 11/23/63 and is the best example of a cottage industry becoming an industrial monolith) there just isn't room for any more crap thinking -- even the really stupid people are getting confused.

    To put it another way - Hey, there's no evidence that this really terrible thing actually happened. Let's investigate why there is no evidence.

    Posted by: Elsewhere1010 | Dec 30, 2013 11:01:11 AM

  4. Tatchell's notion seems awfully far-fetched. Since Turing had already been found guilty of "gross indecency" - meaning British police and security already knew of his homosexuality, what possible basis would there be for blackmail? Furthermore, can Tatchell point to any other instances whatever where it is suspected or proven that British security did away with a citizen for national security concerns?

    Posted by: rroberts | Dec 30, 2013 11:11:54 AM

  5. "Furthermore, can Tatchell point to any other instances whatever where it is suspected or proven that British security did away with a citizen for national security concerns?"

    Well, I think by design he cannot. But I agree it is far-fetched to think an enquiry will yield anything pertinent now. There's a good chance that if it did happen, it would not be investigable by now. Maybe I've watched too many episodes of Spooks, but, for example, what if two rogue operatives did decide to carry this out, but have already removed any paper trail AND are both dead? I high doubt there will be any "I was deepthroat"-style last minute deathbed confessions either. Stiff upper lip and all that.

    Posted by: EchtKultig | Dec 30, 2013 11:28:00 AM

  6. It wasn't murder, but british security services did arrange for hermaphrodite secret operative wallis simpson to seduce the prince of wales in order to keep that pro-german booby from ever becoming king. everybody knows that.

    Posted by: verbocityeric | Dec 30, 2013 11:31:31 AM

  7. The problem with conspiracy theories is that absence of evidence becomes evidence. The less evidence there is, the greater the conspiracy.

    Posted by: Profe Sancho Panza | Dec 30, 2013 12:01:34 PM

  8. There was another recent film about Turing - a docudrama called Codebreaker - that's worth checking out.

    Posted by: Matt | Dec 30, 2013 12:10:35 PM

  9. Those who say there's no evidence that he wasn't murdered...

    He had no history of being suicidal, he was a genius, and even once his security clearance was revoked, people still looked to him for advice and innovation.

    So, yeah, it needs to be investigated, and it isn't far-fetched to ask if he wasn't murdered outright. After all, they absolutely felt no remorse for deforming him and attempting to destroy his career. He was already considered officially to be less than human.

    Dismissing this as a "conspiracy theory" is idiotic.

    Posted by: Naive People | Dec 30, 2013 12:12:32 PM

  10. It will be interesting to see what approach "The Imitation Game" the new film about Turning currently in production starring Benedict Cumberbatch will take towards his death.

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Dec 30, 2013 12:22:07 PM

  11. He may well have been assassinated at the behest of the US government, who would have been very fearful of someone gay with very high level access to intelligence secrets.

    Posted by: Alan | Dec 30, 2013 12:30:58 PM

  12. His death has already been investigated more than once, and the consensus was that he committed suicide. He had several weird fixations. One was that he insisted that he should be able to see himself as just a electromechanical machine just as you view a computers as just a machine, and that he should not be at all concerned about emotions. He wrote at length about suicide in his diary and mentioned his theories of self to his friends on several occasions.

    As a side note, the British were so secretive about everything that they basically handed the keys to the kingdom of computer technology to the US. Almost all of Turing's work on a practical level was tied up for decades by the official secrets act, which meant that the British computer industry did not even begin until the 1970's and 1980's, well after the US had become the world leader in computer technology.

    Posted by: anon | Dec 30, 2013 1:08:09 PM

  13. Peter Tatchell's suggestion seems far fetched. Turing was definitely out due to his conviction. He had a chemistry lab of sorts at home and had
    cyanide available. I think what actually happened regarding the coroner's investigation is that the coroner was predisposed by the widespread prejudice at that time to assume suicide due to Turing being gay, and never seriously considered the possibility of an accident. If the coroner thought it was suicide via a tainted apple, he could have tested that hypothesis by testing the apple. He could also have checked for any signs of sloppy handling of chemical compounds in Turing's lab, which might have suggested an accident.

    Posted by: Bill | Dec 30, 2013 1:56:41 PM

  14. There was a dildo found jammed down his throat....

    Posted by: Ankerich | Dec 30, 2013 6:43:58 PM

  15. Let's not forget that Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's General Counsel, said in a speech at Yale Law School in February 2012 that it IS constitutional for the U.S. government to kill citizens without any judicial review under certain circumstances. What you should get from that is: Although YOU may think state assassination is not legal, there are some folks in government who think it is.

    Posted by: Bill Michael | Dec 31, 2013 2:58:44 AM

  16. The point being made is that the investigation into Turing's death was inadequate. Therefore, we don't know for sure the full circumstances leading up to and including his death. It is within the realm of possibility he was killed by the security services or others unknown. The apple that allegedly killed him was never tested for cyanide. A curious oversight.

    In fact, Peter said it was unlikely that Turing was killed by the security services but they did regard him as a security risk and treated him very badly - which may have contributed to his suicide.

    Posted by: James | Jan 6, 2014 11:57:31 AM

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