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Suicide fears for hacker facing extradition

PUBLISHED: 11:43 13 August 2009 | UPDATED: 16:22 07 September 2010

Ben McPartland COMPUTER hacker Gary McKinnon was rushed to an emergency consultation with leading scientists when his girlfriend feared he would commit suicide last week, the Ham&High has learned. Mr McKinnon, who has Asperger s syndrome, was seen by expe

Ben McPartland

COMPUTER hacker Gary McKinnon was rushed to an emergency consultation with leading scientists when his girlfriend feared he would commit suicide last week, the Ham&High has learned.

Mr McKinnon, who has Asperger's syndrome, was seen by experts in the field of autism, after his latest defeat in his battle against extradition at the High Court on Thursday.

After judges rejected his plea to be tried in this country instead of being dispatched across the Atlantic, his distraught girlfriend Lucy Clarke was alarmed at his reaction.

His family organised an urgent meeting with the Cambridge University professor Simon Baron-Cohen, a global expert in the field of autism and Asperger's syndrome.

Mr McKinnon's stepfather Wilson Sharp said: "Last week he was suicidal. Gary's partner was in tears because he was in a terrible state - she was so scared he was going to kill himself.

"It is a heavy burden on him and I am sure it is taking its toll. We managed to get him the consultation as an emergency. This guy is a serious expert."

Baron-Cohen is professor of developmental psychopathology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow at Trinity College. He is also director of the Autism Research Centre (ARC) in Cambridge.

The professor, who is the cousin of controversial comedian Sacha Baron Cohen and grew up in Hampstead Garden Suburb, has told the family to contact him whenever he is needed. Mr McKinnon, a former Highgate Wood pupil, who is accused by the US of causing $800,000 worth of damage to the country's security systems back in 2002, has admitted in the past to having frequent suicidal thoughts.

On Thursday he suffered a huge setback in his fight against extradition when high court judges dismissed his appeal against the Director of Public Prosecution's decision not to try him in this country.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson has refused to get involved, saying Mr McKinnon is "accused of serious crimes and the US has a lawful right to seek his extradition".

Mr McKinnon has always claimed he was only looking for evidence of UFOs when he hacked into the US security and defence systems.

Mr Sharp said: "Gary has been in a bad way since the last hearing. We still have a vague hope that someone will start acting sensibly.

"We have had seven and a half years of a sentence already, which has been horrendous.

"It has been bad enough for us but for Gary it has been 100 times worse."

Mr McKinnon and his mum Janis Sharp, who has been at his side throughout the ordeal, are now taking his fight to the Supreme Court, the new name for the judicial functions of the House of Lords.

He has until the end of the month to prepare his case and will find out in September whether the law lords will hear his appeal. If he fails he will try to convince the European Court that extradition would be a breach of his rights.

But Mr Sharp refuses to contemplate the idea that his stepson will ever board a plane to the US.

He said: "Gary is not going anyway, that is the end of it. There is a strong feeling that he should be tried here and it is not as though we are saying he should get off scot free.


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