Press cutting

Death of MP Stephen Milligan on front page of The Guardian, 8 February 1994

MP's lurid death shocks Tories, Patrick Wintour, Duncan Campbell and Loulee Jury, The Guardian, 8 February 1994, page 1

Fears of further party scandal as police look into discovery of semi-naked body

MP's lurid death shocks Tories

Patrick Wintour, Duncan Campbell and Loulee Jury

Police are investigating the suspicious death of the Conservative MP Stephen Milligan, whose body was found at his home in Hammersmith, west London, yesterday. The nature of his death and Westminster rumours about its circumstances sent shock waves through the Conservative Party.

According to police sources, Mr Milligan's body was found naked except for a pair of women's stockings on the kitchen floor of his house. Some reports said the MP had a plastic bag over his head. Officially police would only say that they were investigating a death in suspicious circumstances, indicating that it was believed that Mr Milligan, aged 45, had either been murdered or had killed himself.

Conservative MPs were staggered at the news. Senior party sources at Westminster feared that the death of the MP for Eastleigh, Hampshire, would inevitably lead to another in the sequence of scandals that seems to afflict the party at every turn.

Police were alerted at 4.23pm when Mr Milligan's secretary made a 999 call for police and the ambulance service. On arrival at Mr Milligan's terraced house in Black Lion Lane less than 10 minutes later police found Mr Milligan's body. There were no signs of a break-in. Relatives and members of the party were asked to identify the body.

Initially police would only confirm that a white male had been found and that suspicious circumstances were being investigated. Reports that Mr Milligan had been strangled were not confirmed by the police, but they denied he had been bound and gagged. The fact that it was Mr Milligan was confirmed officially three hours later by his regional whip, Andrew MacKay.

The body was taken to Fulham mortuary for a post-mortem last night after Iain West, a leading Home Office pathologist, had made a brief examination at the house. One of the area's most experienced detectives, Detective Superintendent Brian Edwards, is handling the investigation.

The Conservative Party chairman, Sir Norman Fowler, went to Hammersmith police station for details, but left refusing to comment.

John Major expressed his distress at Mr Milligan's death. A statement from Downing Street said: “The Prime Minister has been shocked and saddened by Stephen Milligan's untimely death. His deepest sympathies and condolences go to Stephen's family and friends.”

The Defence Minister Jonathan Aitken, for whom Mr Milligan acted as parliamentary private secretary, said on Channel 4 News: “He was a hard worker and destined for great things. Our hearts go out to his family at this time.”

Chancellor Kenneth Clarke said as he entered the Grosvenor House Hotel in central London for the Conservatives' winter ball: “I am quite shocked. Mr Milligan was one of the best of our new members.”

Mr MacKay said he knew of no problems in Mr Milligan's life. “I would be a very bad whip if I did not know whether there were any.” He added: “He was a very able, well-liked MP who was also enjoying being parliamentary private secretary to Jonathan Aitken. He was one of the last MPs to speak in the House last Friday and was a regular contributor of high quality. He had a good career ahead of him.”

Mr MacKay added that he had discussed with Mr Milligan, a Europhile, the progress of his career and told him he was doing well.

Robert Key, the Roads Minister and MP for Salisbury, said: “He was a wonderful friend and neighbour to work with on issues affecting our part of the country.”

James Hill, MP for Southampton Test, said: “He looked as if he was dedicated to the House. He really seemed to be the kind of person that would not be under and stress. It will be very difficult to held the seat, but we will try.”

Although Mr Milligan increased the government majority over the Liberal Democrats to 17,702 at the 1992 election, few Conservative seats are safe in the present climate. In a byelection last year the Liberal Democrats overturned a majority of 23,000 in Christchurch, 30 miles along the South coast.

Elected to Westminster at the last election after a distinguished career in journalism for the BBC in Brussels, the Economist and the Sunday Times, Mr Milligan was seen as potential Cabinet material.

A fellow Tory MP to enter the Commons in 1992, Michael Fabricant, MP for Mid Staffordshire, said: “Everyone respected his enthusiasm, dedication and sense of purpose. This enthusiasm was reflected in his early appointment as a parliamentary private secretary. He had a glittering career ahead of him. We shall miss him as a colleague and a very thorough politician. He was a popular member of the Commons.”

Tony Hall, managing director of BBC News and Current Affairs, said: “We are very saddened at the news of Stephen's death. He was a first-rate journalist and in his time at the BBC he broke new ground in the coverage of Europe.”

Jack Milne, who until six months ago was honorary secretary of Mr Milligan's local Conservative Association, said “He was just a super chap.”

Mr Milligan was on the left of the party and had flirted with the SDP. Regarded as earnest, diligent and hard-working, he was interested in foreign affairs and had experience and authority from extensive periods abroad as a correspondent.

He is the third MP to die in less then a fortnight, following the Labour members Jimmy Boyce, MP for Rotherham, and Jo Richardson, MP for Barking.

Major's woe compounded, page 2; Obituary, G2 page 9

Friends' frantic search

Paul Myers

STEPHEN MILLIGAN'S absence was noticed by the Conservative whips' office early yesterday afternoon. They spoke to the Daily Telegraph's lobby correspondent, Julie Kirkbride, who was regarded as a close friend of the MP. She did not know of his whereabouts.

Vera Taggert, Mr Milligan's parliamentary secretary, joined the search soon after. She left several messages on the answerphone at his home in Hammersmith, west London. When there was no response, she became increasingly anxious, she telephoned Sally Penney, the MP's secretary in his Eastleigh constituency.

Ms Penney said last night: “As time went on she rang again, saying it was very strange and she was going to try and track him down. She said she really didn't like it and she was going round to the house.”

Mrs Taggert left for Hammersmith but got no reply at Mr Milligan's door. She waited outside, hoping he would return, before noticing his car was nearby and the curtains were drawn.

From a payphone, Mrs Taggert called Ms Penney again.

Ms Penney said: “She told me she was going to try and get a keyholder to let her in, but I did not hear from her again. The next I heard was about two hours later when people started to phone up and tell me Stephen was dead. I still can't believe it. He was such a young chap. He was very well liked here.”

Friends' frantic search, Paul Myers, The Guardian, 8 February 1994, page 1

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