Forensic scientist: I can prove Masaryk was pushed

Jan Masaryk, photo CTK

New evidence came to light on Wednesday to support the theory that Czechoslovakia's post-war Foreign Minister Jan Masaryk was murdered by the KGB. Masaryk's body was discovered underneath the window of his second-storey apartment on March 10th, 1948, two weeks after the Communist Party came to power. The official verdict was that he committed suicide, a theory supported by many historians as well as his last secretary. But a forensic scientist specialising in falling bodies says he has conclusive evidence that Masaryk was pushed. Rob Cameron has more.

Jan Masaryk,  photo: CTK
Jan Masaryk was highly critical of the Western powers for betraying Czechoslovakia at the 1938 Munich conference, but was also wary of Stalin and his designs on Czechoslovakia. His wartime radio addresses on the BBC became a source of inspiration for Czechs living under Nazi occupation, and he returned to Prague after the war as a popular hero. He resumed his post as Foreign Minister, choosing to stay on when the Communists took power in February 1948. It was a fateful decision - two weeks later he was found dead.

Exactly how he died has been the source of speculation ever since. The official version offered by the Communist regime was that he committed suicide. That version is still accepted by many, including his last secretary, Antonin Sum. Mr Sum, who is now 83, says Masaryk was depressed and weary at the events unfolding around him - a committed democrat and the son of Czechoslovakia's first president Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, he was forced to watch his country slowly being crushed by Stalin's embrace. He says Jan Masaryk killed himself as a protest against Communist aggression.

Jan Masaryk,  photo: CTK
But others - including his family - have always maintained Jan Masaryk was not suicidal, and insist he was murdered by the KGB. On Wednesday a forensic scientist called Jiri Straus offered new evidence to support this theory, saying he can prove Masaryk was pushed. For one thing, says Mr Straus, Masaryk - a heavy man and certainly no athlete - would have landed much closer to the building if he had jumped. The scientist says the fact that Masaryk was found more than two metres away from his window is conclusive evidence that he was pushed out of it. Also interesting is that Masaryk landed on his feet - suggesting that he was trying to save himself from the 14 metre fall.

The Office for the Documentation and Investigation of the Crimes of Communism says its too early to say whether Mr Straus's forensic work is enough to reopen the case, a case which is more than half a century old. All the evidence will have to be taken into consideration, says the Office, and not just the hypothesis of one man.