You’d have thought, after ten years writing about religious journalism in this country, and twenty years perpetrating the stuff, that I would know better than to take any _Times_ exclusive at face value. You would be wrong. I should have checked Ruth Gledhill’s blog post about the supposed poisoning of an English missionary in Malawi before “mentioning it here.”:http://www.thewormbook.com/helmintholog/archives/2007/04/29/even_for_the__t.html#002000
I didn’t. I didn’t get around to it until yesterday morning, when a couple of phone calls produced some interesting results.
* The three “poisons” that Ruth mentions on her blog posting were in fact prescription drugs — an anti histamine, an antibiotic, and a tranquilliser. You can’t check this directly, because the first thing she did after I rang her up and told her was to say “Oh Dear” and the second, to take the post down. It has been replaced by a copy of a letter I forwarded her giving a rather more credible explanation of these symptoms.
* Ruth had not checked the properties of the “poisons”. Neither had her source, Mark Hunter, the dead Canon’s nephew.
* Ruth rang last night, eight hours after our original conversation, to say that her co-author on the story _had_ checked, and thus knew that they were writing a story about prescription drugs but had forgotten to tell her. Readers are invited to look at the _Times_ story in the light of the fact that one of the authors knew when it was written that the “poisons” involved were an anti-histamine, an antibiotic, and a tranquilliser.
* The three priests dying in mysterious circumstances thirty years ago, put down to witchcraft, may not be true either. At any rate, I have spoken to Donald Arden, who was then the Archbishop of the province, and he has no memory of it, who might be expected to know. Before you ask; yes, his marbles are all in his possession.
Apart from those details, the story seems accurate.