LONDON -- A sixth British defense scientist has died mysteriously, police said Sunday, prompting new calls for a government investigation of a baffling string of apparent suicides and deaths. A seventh scientist, meanwhile, has disappeared.
Police officials near Oxford said metallurgy expert Peter Peapell, 46, who worked for the Defense Ministry until 1984, was found dead Feb. 22 from carbon monoxide poisoning underneath his car in his garage. The car engine was running and the garage door was shut.
An inquest issued an open verdict, meaning there was no conclusive evidence to confirm whether the death was murder, suicide or an accident.
He was the sixth scientist doing research work linked to the ministry to die since 1982. Five of the deaths and the disappearance of a seventh scientist have occured since last August.
One scientist jumped from a bridge, a second hanged himself from a tree, and a third loaded his car with gasoline cans and crashed into a wall at high speed. A fourth died in a car crash and the fifth died of unexplained causes.
Member of Parliament John Cartwright, a spokesman for the centrist Alliance of the Social Democrat and Liberal Party, last week called for an inquiry into the scientists's death.
On Sunday he called Peapell's death 'worrying' and said he believed there were 'grounds for concern' in calling for a renewed police investigation. 'I would have thought that as a matter of sheer prudence it would be the sensible thing to do in the case,' he said.
Home Secretary Douglas Hurd, the country's top law enforcement officer, has ordered police to exchange notes on the deaths but said there will not be a government inquiry.
A Defense Ministry official has said such an inquiry is not warranted because there was 'no evidence of any link at this stage.'
Part of Peapell's metallurgy research -- like that of the five scientists who died and the one who disappeared -- was classified.
A Defense Minstry spokesman said Peapell worked with the ministry until 1984 but after a reorganization became a lecturer at the Royal Military College of Science near Swindon, 50 miles west of London. The spokesman described the college as 'a source of knowledge and reference for technology and science as applied to war.'
In calling for an investigation, Cartwright said even if all the deaths are accidents or suicide, 'it must raise question about the pressures under which scientists are working in the field.'
The string of deaths began in 1982 when Keith Bowden, a computer scientist doing defense ministry-related work, died when his car crashed on to a disused railway in Essex northeast of London.
In August, 1986, Vamil Dajibhai, 24, a computer engineer with Marconi Underwater Systems working on torpedo guidance systems, plunged from a bridge in Bristol in southwestern England. Small, unexplained puncture marks were found in his buttocks.
A month later Ashad Sharif, 26, a Marconi computer expert, died of a broken neck in his car near Bristol after driving away with one end of a rope tied to his neck and the other to a tree.
In January, Richard Pugh, a computer design expert doing defense-related work, was found dead by unexplained causes at his home in Essex.
David Sands, 37, a computer expert with a Marconi subsidiary, died March 30 when his car, loaded with petrol cans, crashed into an abandoned cafe and burst into flames outside Winchester in southern England. Sands had worked on computer-controlled radar for the Strategic Defense Initiative or Star Wars.
A seventh scientist, Aytar Singh Gida, 26, who was researching submarine warfare at Loughborough University, disappeared in January. He was testing sonar equpment at a reservoir in central England when he disappeared.