On Saturday a Chilean judge ordered police to begin the hunt for the shadowy ‘Doctor Price’, believed by prosecution lawyer Eduardo Contreras to be the man responsible for the murder of Chilean Poet Nobel Laureate Pablo Neruda.

By Matthew Owens

Pablo NerudaFour decades after the death of Chilean Nobel Prize winner and Communist Party member Pablo Neruda, questions are resurfacing over whether his demise was entirely due to the prostate cancer that had gripped his body or could ultimately be attributed to more sinister forces.

Neruda won the 1971 Nobel Prize for literature, narrowly losing out to Jean-Paul Satre in 1968 and was a staunch member of the Communist Party. He served on diplomatic posts in Burma, Ceylon and Barcelona, going on to become Chile’s Ambassador to France from 1970-73. Twelve days after General Augusto Pinochet seized power in September 1973, Neruda died of heart failure at Santa Maria Clinic in Santiago. Since that time rumours have been rife over suspected foul play.

Sketch Source: Neruda by Carlos Hermosilla Álvarez (Chile: 1905-1991).  Personal collection of Joel Rosenthal and Liliana Hermosilla Rosenthal, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA.

More recently,  Neruda’s driver and bodyguard Manuel Araya increased speculation over the death when he claimed that the poet was murdered by the Pinochet regime in order to silence him, leading to the controversial exhumation of Neruda’s body in April of this year. The Independent report that Araya claimed an ‘unscheduled’ injection was administered to Neruda causing him to phone his bodyguard from hospital complaining of feeling unwell. Preliminary tests have provided evidence of prostrate cancer, although as La Tercera reported, Communist Party prosecutor Eduardo Contreras argued, “it’s not news that Neruda had cancer”. Whether their presence or absence can be determined with great precision is uncertain but it is thought that it is possible through analysis of bone marrow. Nevertheless,  final independent toxicology reports are still pending, according to El Mecurio online. 

Docotor Price

Meanwhile the prosecution insists that the medic attending Neruda at the time of death, Doctor Sergio Draper,  has altered his version of events, now claiming that a mystery “Doctor Price” was left in charge. However, the hospital has no ‘Price’ on their records and Draper claims never to have seen the man subsequently.

On Saturday a Chilean judge ordered police to begin the hunt for the shadowy ‘Doctor Price’. There has been some debate as to whether the man, described as having blond hair and blue eyes, fits the description of alleged CIA agent Michael Townley.  Townley lives under the witness protection programme in the U.S. after being convicted of murdering former Chilean Ambassador to the United States Orlando Letelier, who died after his car was booby-trapped. Recent reports, however, suggest that Townley could not have been responsible for Neruda’s death.

Sketch Source: Artist impression of the mysterious ‘Doctor Price’. Chilean Police/AP.

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