June 3, 2013

Chilean judge orders police to find mysterious man who may have killed Pablo Neruda


The Nobel Prize-winning poet, Pablo Neruda.

On Saturday, a Chilean judge ordered police to find the man who may have poisoned Pablo Neruda, two months after the poet’s body was exhumed and nearly forty years after his death. This command is the culmination of a two-year campaign to investigate the Nobel laureate’s cause of death, which began when the poet’s former driver alleged that Neruda did not die of prostate cancer, as was officially recorded, but was poisoned by agents working with Chilean dictator Augusten Pinochet.

The decision came after Dr. Sergio Draper, a doctor who testified that he was with Neruda when he died, changed his story and told the court that a doctor named Price was with the poet. The catch? There’s no record of a Doctor Price in the hospital’s records and Draper never saw him again after the day he left him with Neruda.

Nick Clark has more information about the mysterious Mr. Price and the case in general at The Independent:

The prosecutor believes that whoever the man was, “the important fact is that this was the person who ordered the injection” that may have killed Neruda. The description of Price as tall and blond with blue eyes matches Michael Townley, a CIA double agent who worked with the Chilean secret police under Pinochet.

Townley was put into the witness protection programme after he admitted killing critics of the Chilean dictator in Washington and Buenos Aires.

Neruda’s body is still undergoing analysis by Chilean and international forensic scientists to discover if there is proof of foul play.

Earlier this year, The Guardian reported that the clinic where Neruda died has been under quite a bit of scrutiny recently. Last year, six people, including Pinochet agents, were arrested for allegedly poisoning former president Eduardo Frei there in 1981. As my colleague Sal Robinson noted then:

The imagination reels — a professional poisoner’s clinic where high-profile patients are taken to be quietly “cured”? Doctor-villains slipping around the halls in the soft blue slippers of the suppression of legitimate protest?

Well, the story keeps getting more unbelievable—now it’s a professional poisoner’s clinic with a (possible) CIA double-agent doctor-villain. We’ll keep you updated as more remarkable details emerge.



Alex Shephard is the director of digital media for Melville House, and a former bookseller.