The mysterious death of American microbiologist Suzanne Eaton turned out not to be an accident – the scientist working for the Max Planck Institute was asphyxiated and her body was dumped into a Nazi occupation-era cave bunker.
The biologist disappeared on the island of Crete on July 2 while jogging. Eaton had been attending a conference at the Orthodox Academy in the northwest part of the island.
Her body was discovered several days later by two locals some 60 meters into a man-made cave that was used as a bunker by Nazi troops during World War II. Her relatives initially believed that her death was an accident due to a bad fall or heat exhaustion, according to a statement posted on a Facebook page set up by her family.
The ongoing investigation, however, suggests otherwise. The scientist definitely died as a result of a “criminal act,” state coroner Antonis Papadomanolakis told the AP on Wednesday. Eaton was actually asphyxiated by unknown assailants and sustained minor stab wounds, according to Greek police.
The body of the scientist was found face down – and under a ventilation shaft, reportedly covered by a large wooden pallet – in an apparent attempt to conceal the murder. The position of the body also suggests she was dumped into the bunker.
“There is an ongoing homicide investigation being led by the police in Crete which has taken comprehensive measures to ensure that the responsible party(ies) will be brought to justice,” Eaton’s employer, the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics, based in Dresden, Germany, said in a statement.
Apart from being a prominent scientist, Eaton was also physically fit –she ran daily and even had a second degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Given that fact – and the tone of the institute’s statement – one cannot rule out that the police should be looking for several suspects. Still, there’s no word on any leads on the case from local police.
Eaton earned her PhD in microbiology from the University of California, Los Angeles in 1988. She is survived by her husband, British microbiologist Tony Hyman, and their two children.