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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Questions remain about death of man at his home in Penrith

A human rights activist who settled in Cumbria after escaping a death sentence in Saudi Arabia died from natural causes, a coroner has ruled.

Yet an inquest into the death of 52-year-old Bill Sampson, whose body was discovered in his home at Market Court, Penrith, in March, heard that there are many questions about the tragedy which remain unanswered.

Detectives ruled out any foul play but the hearing was told that police were never able to recover Mr Sampson’s wallet, keys and mobile phone.

His body lay undiscovered on the floor of his sitting room for up to two weeks, and the door to his flat was unlocked – despite Mr Sampson being known to be excessively security conscious, and prone to using two or three locks, even when friends visited.

He first came to public attention in 2001 when he made a dramatic televised confession on Saudi TV to being involved in two bombings the previous year which killed a British hospital worker and injured several other people.

He was sentenced to death by public beheading but after his release from jail and return to the UK he insisted his confession was forced out of him by torture.

He fought a long legal battle for compensation and always maintained his innocence.

He was freed after two years in jail, and later wrote of his TV confession: “I’d been dragged to prison, threatened, sleep deprived, and beaten so severely I almost died.”

He settled in Penrith in 2003 after his release from jail in Saudi Arabia. The inquest in Kendal heard that Mr Sampson’s body was so decomposed when it was found that no precise cause of death could be identified, though medical records showed he had severe heart disease and suffered a heart attack in 2010.

Coroner Ian Smith said it was probable that he had sustained another heart attack. A police investigation concluded there were no suspicious circumstances. “I don’t think there is anything sinister here,” added the coroner.

Friend Pete Moran told the hearing that Mr Sampson had contact with many groups, and he spoke for many of them, endorsing human rights.

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