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Arctic Sea Ice Expert Complains To Press Watchdog Over Times Story

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John Vidal, The Guardian

One of the world’s leading Arctic sea ice experts has responded strongly to a Times newspaper story claiming that he thought assassins may have murdered three leading British scientists in 2013.

Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, during an expedition to the North Pole.

Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics at Cambridge University, during an expedition to the North Pole.

Professor Peter Wadhams, Cambridge professor of ocean physics, has complained to the Independent Press Standards Organissation (Ipso) that his scientific reputation had been damaged by Times environment editor Ben Webster and that he had been inaccurately quoted.

The Times said it had a recording of Wadhams’ comments and stood by the story.

The Times report centred on the deaths within a few months in 2013 of three leading sea ice scientists, two of them from University College London, and a narrow escape for Wadhams after a driver of an unmarked lorry reportedly tried to push his car off the M25.

According to Wadmams: “Webster … asked for further details. I asked that this be completely off the record because of (a) the sensibilities of relatives of the deceased (b) my own scientific reputation (I did not want to be made out to be a crazy person), (c) the fact that these deaths were investigated and were very clearly simply an extraordinary coincidence.

“He [Webster] raised the question of whether they were murdered. I agreed that for a short time I thought that they were, since I had had the experience of being run off the road at the same time by a lorry, but that it was very clear afterwards that the three deaths were individually explainable accidents.”

He further claimed that a promise of confidentiality was breached. “I did not make any of the statements enclosed in quotation marks by the reporter. Webster promised that this was in confidence and that if he wanted to use it he would contact me first.”

A spokesperson for The Times said: “We have a recording of Professor Wadhams making these statements. Another newspaper [the Telegraph] subsequently reported that he had made similar comments to their journalist. We stand by the story.”

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