Chile judge orders hunt for alleged killer in poet's 1973 death
SANTIAGO, Chile – 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 likely murdered by agents of dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Contreras said Dr. Sergio Draper, who originally testified that he was with Neruda at the time of his death on Sept. 23, 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 Chilean secret police under Pinochet.
Townley was taken into the U.S. witness protection program after acknowledging having killed prominent Pinochet critics in Washington and Buenos Aires.
For Contreras, whoever the man was, "the important fact is that this was the person who ordered the injection" that allegedly killed Neruda.
Neruda's former assistant Manuel Araya also said he believed the poet was poisoned by Pinochet's agents.
The Nobel Prize winner's body was exhumed on April 8, and is being analyzed by Chilean and international forensic specialists.