Why was a British journalist murdered in Chile?

Americas Uncategorized

The news focus on Chile concerning the detainment of General Pinochet in London has until now paid no attention to the fate of the British defence journalist Jonathan Moyle, who was found hanged in his Santiago hotel room on April 1 1990.

Both the sequence of events that may have led to his death and the exact circumstances of how Moyle died are shrouded in mystery and suspicion.

In March 1990, Moyle attended the Chilean Arms Fair in his capacity as editor of Helicopter Defence World as the Pinochet dictatorship drew to an end and Iraq prepared to invade Kuwait, precipitating the Gulf conflict.

Weeks later he was dead. The coroner at first ruled a verdict of suicide, later changed to murder.

The cause of death was concluded to be asphyxiation but here there is a major discrepancy. Moyle was 5 feet 8 inches tall but the rail in the closet from which he was suspended was only five feet high. An autopsy revealed sedative in his stomach and a bruise on his leg.

The fact that no one has been charged with his murder has led to speculation that he intended to make startling revelations about the nature of the British-Iraq arms trade by others in the international defence circle in which he had moved.

Moyle read International Politics at Aberystwyth on an RAF scholarship in 1980. It is alleged that as a bright student, Moyle was recruited at University into MI6 by his personal tutor and head of department, John Garnett, to work as a local special branch informant.

From here on Moyle immersed himself into a world of high-level military access, trusted by the Ministry of Defence to view classified documents and enjoying operational contact with the American Drugs Enforcement Agency. He had clearly amassed considerable knowledge of the machinations of arms trafficking conducted between industrialised nations and the Third World by the time he came to cover the Chilean Air Fair.

The Fair is Latin America’s most impressive display of military hardware and it seems inconceivable given his history, that Moyle was not approached by a government agency to gather intelligence on who was in attendance. Moyle had a friend from university, Catherine Royal, at the British Embassy in Santiago. However, shortly after his death both the resident air and naval attachés there returned to London along with royal and the first secretary was transferred.

What did Jonathan Moyle know or was about to discover that got him killed?

On the night of his death Moyle was seen arguing with a man identified as Raul Monteciros, the public relations officer to the immensely influential Chilean arms dealer Carlos Cardoen, an associate of Mark Thatcher, son of former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

Cardoen was using Chile as a conduit to get the arms to Iraq that Britain was secretly supplying to Saddam Hussein, namely re-exporting prohibited weapons including equipment supplied by Matrix Churchill Ltd., the British tool-maker whose Chairman was Iraq’s procurement leader, Safa al Habobi.

Perhaps key to the puzzle of Jonathan Moyle’s death is the Marconi ‘Stonefish’ smart mine. It seems possible Cardoen had secretly acquired the plans to the anti-ship mine (used by NATO forces) and had manufactured a sizeable quantity to be exported to Iraq. Iraq’s rejuvenated underwater defence system would consequently pose a real hazard to American warships patrolling in the Gulf.

Moyle’s father, Tony, was visited by Naval Intelligence officials five days after his son’s death, asking if Jonathan had ever mentioned ‘Stonefish’. Shortly after, a smear story apparently with its origins in the Foreign Office, was circulated suggesting that Moyle’s death was not an assassination but a self-inflicted consequence of a sado- masochistic sexual act. No evidence was given to support this theory and Tony Moyle later received a written apology from the Foreign Office.

To date there has been no comprehensive investigation of the Moyle murder case, either by the British government or the Chilean authorities.

It seems most likely he was killed by the CNI – the Chilean Paramilitary Secret Police Force – better know by its previous initials, DINA. It appears equally likely, with Chile on the eve of parliamentary rule in 1990, that CNI’s deadly efficient skills would only have been used with at least a wink of complicity from either the Chilean authorities or the Thatcher government, or both.

The arrest of General Pinochet in October has upset many in the British corporate military sector. The ex-dictator had been invited here as a guest of the Ministry of Defence and saw his role as an arms procurer for the Chilean army, though this was not Pinochet’s official capacity.

It appears the Chilean navy will not now spend £60 million plus on purchasing new frigates from Britain and that BAE System’s bid for refurbishing the Chilean air force with the Gripen fighter plane will probably lose out to American F-15 Tomcats.

As with the cases of the two British nationals, Michael Woodward, an Anglo-Chilean priest, and William Beausire, a British businessman – who were tortured and murdered under General Pinochet’s regime in Chile in the 1970s – which were deemed ‘insufficient’ to arrest the former dictator, so the sacrifice of Jonathan Moyle is discreetly forgotten in the presence of large arms contracts.