Turkey tries to shed light on Briton’s death in Istanbul fall

James Le Mesurier’s body was found near his home after a leading Russian official claimed he was a spy.

James Le Mesurier
James Le Mesurier

Turkish officials are performing a post-mortem examination and other procedures as they try to establish how a former British Army officer who helped found the White Helmets volunteer aid group in Syria died.

James Le Mesurier’s body was found near his home in Istanbul early on Monday by worshippers on their way to morning prayers.

Turkish police believe he fell to his death from his home and are investigating the circumstances. Last week a leading Russian official had claimed he was a spy, something Britain strongly denies.

Police at the scene in Istanbul
Police at the scene in Istanbul (Emrah Gurel/AP)

The Istanbul chief prosecutor’s office said a post-mortem and other procedures were under way at the Forensic Medicine Institute to determine “the exact cause” of his death.

It said police were still in the process of gathering security camera recordings near the scene and assessing them.

Istanbul governor Ali Yerlikaya told reporters: “Our chief prosecutor’s office, our police are engaged in multifaceted efforts to shed light on the incident.”

James Le Mesurier
James Le Mesurier (AP)

Mr Le Mesurier was the founder and chief executive of May Day Rescue, which established and trained the White Helmets, also known as the Syria Civil Defence, a group of local humanitarian volunteers.

The group, which has had more than 3,000 volunteers in opposition-held areas, says it has saved thousands of lives since 2013 and documented Syrian government attacks on civilians and other infrastructure.

The group has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Last week, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova accused Mr Le Mesurier of being a former British agent working in the Balkans and the Middle East.

She alleged he had “been spotted all around the world, including in the Balkans and the Middle East”.

Karen Pierce, Britain’s ambassador to the UN, denied those allegations, saying: “The Russian charges against him, that came out of Foreign Ministry that he was a spy, are categorically untrue.”

She also said Britain would be “looking very closely” at the Turkish authorities’ investigation.

Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency reported that he was 48 and had moved to Turkey with his wife four years ago.

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