British ex-intel officer, White Helmets backer found dead in Istanbul

Former British intelligence officer and a major White Helmets backer James Gustaf Edward Le Mesurier was found dead in Istanbul's Beyoğlu district. His death came just days after Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova accused him of being a spy in the Balkans and the Middle East.

Duvar English

A former British intelligence officer and a major backer of the White Helmets was found dead in Istanbul, the city's governor's office said on Nov. 11.

Former MI6 agent James Gustaf Edward Le Mesurier, 48, was found dead in Istanbul's Beyoğlu district early on Nov. 11 and an investigation was launched into the incident.

Le Mesurier was the director of Mayday Rescue charity that trained members of the Syria Civil Defense, nicknamed the White Helmets, playing a major role in its creation in Turkey in 2014.

He was awarded an Order of the British Empire for his work in the following years.

Police have determined that Le Mesurier was with his wife at the time of the incident and that he might have died due to falling from a height.

His body was found on the street without any documents showing his identification.

In her testimony, Le Mesurier's wife, whose name wasn't disclosed, said that her husband was taking sleeping pills, as well as psychiatric medication, and that she was sleeping at the time of the incident.

Saying that the former intelligence agent was suffering from stress recently, the woman said that they moved to the place in Beyoğlu, which was used as a home office by Le Mesurier, a couple of days ago in order to be close to a medical institution.

"We were awake with my husband until approximately 4:00 a.m. We took sleeping pills together. I woke up at around 5:30 - 6:00 a.m. when the doorbell rang. I looked down the window that was open when I couldn't see my husband and saw him lying on the ground," she said.

Police have also determined that the couple were the only people in the building at the time of the incident and the building was only accessible by using fingerprint identification. 

The former agent's death comes just days after he was accused of being a spy in a tweet by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Maria Zakharova, a Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman, referred to Le Mesurier on Nov. 8 as a “former agent of Britain’s MI6, who has been spotted all around the world.”

Her comments, which were shared on Twitter, further accused Le Mesurier of working as a spy in the Balkans and the Middle East.

The head of the White Helmets said that they were informed about his death.

“We read that the police found his body outside his home in Istanbul. But as of now, the police are investigating the case and have drawn no conclusions yet. We are waiting for the police report,” Raed al-Salah, the head of the White Helmets told The Independent.

Salah said the White Helmets community were “devastated” by the news.

“James is a close friend to us and to the Syrian people, he supported the White Helmets as founder and director of the Mayday Rescue organisation. We are devastated.”