Officials didn't fare any better with the second Bristol fatality. Police
virtually tripped over themselves to come up with a motive for the apparent--and
unusually violent--suicide of Ashaad Sharif.
Sharif was a 26-year-old computer analyst who worked at the Marconi Defense Systems headquarters in Stanmore, Middlesex. On October 28, 1986, he allegedly drove to a public park not far from where Dajibhai had died. He tied one end of a nylon cord around a tree and tied the other end around his neck. Then he got back into his Audi 80 automatic, stepped on the gas and sped off, decapitating himself.
Marconi initially claimed Sharif was only a junior employee, and that he had nothing to do with Star Wars. Co-workers stated otherwise. At the time of his death, Sharif was apparently about to be promoted. Also, Ashaad reportedly worked for a time in Vimal Dajibhai's section.
The inquest determined that Sharif's death was a suicide. Investigating officers maintained that the man had killed himself because he'd been jilted by an alleged lover. Ashaad hadn't seen the woman in three years.
"Sharif was said to have been depressed over a broken romance," Tony Collins explains. "But the woman police unofficially say was his lover contends that she was only his landlady when he was working for British Aerospace in Bristol. She's married, has three children, and she's deeply religious. The possibility of the two having an affair seems highly unlikely--especially since Sharif had a fiancee in Pakistan. His family told me that he was genuinely in love with her."
Police suddenly switched stories. They began to say that Sharif had been deeply in love with the woman he was engaged to, and that he'd decapitated himself because another woman was pressuring him to call off the marriage.
Authorities claimed to have found a taped message in Sharif's car "tantamount" to a suicide note. On it, officers said, he'd admitted to having had an affair, thus bringing shame on his family. Family members who've heard the tape say that it actually gave no indication of why Sharif might want to kill himself.
Sharif's family was told by the coroner that it was "not in their best interest" to attend the inquest.
"It's been almost impossible to get to information about deaths that should be in the public domain," Tony Collins laments. "I've been given false names or incorrect spellings, or I've not been told where inquests have taken place. It's made it very difficult for me to try to track down the details of these cases."
In the Sharif case, two facts stand out: Ashaad had no history of depression, and there was absolutely no reason for him to be in Bristol. Did 22 SDI Researchers really ALL Commit Suicide?
October 1986: Arshad Sharif, 26
--Expertise: Reported to have been working on systems for the detection of submarines by satellite.
--Circumstance of Death: Died as a result of placing a ligature around his neck, tying the other end to a tree and then driving off in his car with the accelerator pedal jammed down. His unusual death was complicated by several issues: Sharif lived near Vimal Dajibhai in Stanmore, Middlesex, he committed suicide in Bristol and, inexplicably, had spent the last night of his life in a rooming house. He had paid for his accommodation in cash and was seen to have a bundle of high-denomination banknotes in his possession. While the police were told of the banknotes, no mention was made of them at the inquest and they were never found. In addition, most of the other guests at the rooming house worked at British Aerospace prior to working for Marconi, Sharif had also worked at British Aerospace on guided weapons technology.
--Coroner's verdict: Suicide.