Chilean police seek arrest of poet poisoning suspect

The body of Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda was exhumed this year. Picture: AP

The body of Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda was exhumed this year. Picture: AP

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Forty years after the death of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, a judge has issued an order for police to make a portrait of and find the man who prosecutors allege may have poisoned him.

Neruda’s death was attributed at the time to prostate cancer but the case’s plaintiff lawyer, Eduardo Contreras, says there is new evidence showing he was probably murdered by agents working for Augusto Pinochet.

Mr Contreras yesterday said Dr Sergio Draper, who originally testified that he was with Neruda at the time of his death on 23 September 1973, is now saying there was another doctor named “Price” with the poet.

But Price did not appear in any of the hospital’s records as a treating doctor and Draper said he never saw him again after the day he left him with Neruda. Moreover Price’s description of a blond, blue-eyed, tall man, matches Michael Townley, the CIA double agent who worked with the Chilean secret police under Pinochet.

Mr Townley was taken into a US witness protection programme after acknowledging having killed prominent Pinochet critics in Washington and Buenos Aires.

The Nobel Prize winner’s body was exhumed on 8 April, and is being analysed by Chilean and international forensic specialists.

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