Legendary code-breaker and computing boffin Alan Turing - seen by many as the father of modern computing and credited with a huge contribution to the Allied victory in World War Two - may have been murdered by the British security services, it has been claimed.
“The government should open a new inquiry into the death of gay war-time code-breaker, mathematical genius and computer pioneer Alan Turing, including an investigation into the possibility he was murdered by the security services,” LGBTI*-rights campaigner Peter Tatchell stated last week in a press release.
The statement continues:
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. The original inquest into his death was perfunctory and inadequate. Although it is said that he died from eating an apple laced with cyanide, the allegedly fatal apple was never tested for cyanide. A new inquiry is long overdue, even if only to dispel any doubts about the true cause of his death.
Turing was regarded as a high security risk because of his homosexuality and his expert knowledge of code-breaking, advanced mathematics and computer science. At the time of his death, Britain was gripped by a MacCarthyite-style anti-homosexual witch-hunt. Gay people were being hounded out of the armed forces and the civil and foreign services.
In this frenzied homophobic atmosphere, all gay men were regarded as security risks - open to blackmail at a time when homosexuality was illegal and punishable by life imprisonment. Doubts were routinely cast on their loyalty and patriotism. Turing would have fallen under suspicion.
Mr Tatchell suggests that the "security services" would have feared that Turing might pass critical information to the Soviets, and would have sought to kill him for being homosexual and thus a security risk subject to blackmail. The reference to "security services" and counter-espionage suggests that he has specifically in mind the Security Service itself, also known as MI5 - or perhaps the Secret Intelligence Service (aka MI6), though that organisation is more focused on carrying out espionage abroad rather than preventing it at home.
The idea that British intelligence operatives can or do deliberately set out to assassinate British citizens with official sanction would seem to be poorly supported, other than in the case of certain military operations during the fighting in Northern Ireland. Even those latter would normally have been characterised for the record as combat operations rather than targeted killings. However such accusations are often made: for example by biz kingpin Mohamed al-Fayed, who alleges that MI6 orchestrated the car crash in which his son Dodi and Princess Diana were killed.
Ironically perhaps, at the time when Mr Tatchell speculates that MI5 may have been murdering Alan Turing for being gay and possibly a Soviet agent, MI5 itself genuinely had been infiltrated at a high level by a ring of Soviet agents, some of whom were in fact gay.
Alan Turing recently received a posthumous Royal pardon for his conviction on charges of gross indecency (the charge used against gay male sexual activity during that era) in 1952. ®
*Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex