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Mystery of ambassador's death in Hampstead

PUBLISHED: 14:49 26 February 2009 | UPDATED: 15:58 07 September 2010

Jan Winkler

Jan Winkler

Ben McPartland THE death of an ambassador in the heart of Hampstead will stay a mystery forever after government intervention. Jan Winkler, the Czech Republic ambassador to the UK, died at his home in Redington Road on Monday February 16. The 51-year-old

Ben McPartland

THE death of an ambassador in the heart of Hampstead will stay a mystery forever after government intervention.

Jan Winkler, the Czech Republic ambassador to the UK, died at his home in Redington Road on Monday February 16.

The 51-year-old father of three called 999 around 8.30am, saying he was suffering a heart attack.

When ambulance crews had difficulty gaining access to the house, police were called. Officers were just about to break the door down when a private security firm arrived with keys.

Mr Winkler was rushed to the Royal Free hospital but was pronounced dead shortly after.

A post-mortem examination proved inconclusive, and the cause of his death may never be known after a coroner agreed not to proceed with an inquest.

Last Thursday's decision came after a request by the Czech government and Mr Winkler's family.

But the move has not been greeted with suspicion because under UK law surrounding diplomats, foreign ambassadors are immune from any kind of investigation, including inquests into their deaths.

A source at St Pancras Coroner's Court told the Ham&High: "It's very unusual but they asked for it and the coroner said fine. His post-mortem was inconclusive and so the coroner would normally look to do further investigations but that is when the shutters came down.

"The coroner did have an option to go against it but that would have been a legal can of worms we were not going to open. It would have meant all sorts of problems.

"This does not indicate that there is anything untoward, it is just unusual. I just feel sorry for the kids who may never find out how their dad died."

The cause of Mr Winkler's death was reported in the Czech Republic as a "probable heart attack".

The Czech government paid tribute to the ambassador, who was one of the country's "most significant and respected" diplomats. Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek has also sent his condolences to Mr Winkler's family.

Before taking up the post of ambassador, Mr Winkler, a trained lawyer, worked as deputy foreign minister for security policy.


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