Suicide Cluster Cover-up tactics & Debian exposed

Fresh details have emerged from the debian-private (leaked) gossip network about the death of Adrian von Bidder from Basel, Switzerland.

Now we start to see a pattern. Between 2005 and 2011, there were four deaths in European countries without a public coronial inquest and one disappearance in the United States. There was also one confirmed suicide in the UK in the same period.

The most prominent confirmed suicide is the case of Frans Pop, the Debian Day Volunteer Suicide.

Pop's family contacted the former Debian Project Leader (DPL), Steve McIntyre, telling him directly that it was a suicide.

McIntyre disclosed the suicide on debian-private and then he went on to add some unsubstantiated comments linking the death to a thyroid cancer treatment:

Subject: Re: Death of Frans Pop
Date: Sun, 22 Aug 2010 12:21:47 +0100
From: Steve McIntyre <>

I'm saddened to see the news about Frans triggering arguments, but I
suppose it's not too much of a surprise - shock and grief can cause
all kinds of reactions in people. :-(

On Sat, Aug 21, 2010 at 11:47:34AM +0100, Steve McIntyre wrote:
>Hi all,
>I have bad news to share with people, I'm afraid. This morning, I've
>just received an email from the parents of Frans Pop telling me that
>he died yesterday.
>"Yesterday morning our son Frans Pop has died. He took his own life,
>in a well-considered, courageous, and considerate manner. During the
>last years his main concern was his work for Debian. I would like to
>ask you to inform those members of the Debian community who knew him

I've had another email from them today. Something that many/most
people will not have known before now was that Frans had been
suffering from thyroid cancer. He went into hospital a couple of years
ago for treatment and only mentioned it to a few of us at the time. He
had not mentioned it since, leading me to assume that he was
cured. Now I'm not sure either way.

I didn't mention this illness to people here yesterday while I asked
his father if it might have been a factor in Frans' choice to end his
life. I've just had confirmation this morning that apparently it was
*not*. Frans had other reasons, although I'm still personally
wondering if there might have some contribution.

... [snip] ...

There seems to be a sense of denial. People are clutching at straws.

Today a Debian Developer published Martin Krafft's comments about Adrian von Bidder "probably" having suffered a heart attack. Does this look like a real heart-attack or could it be another half-hearted attempt to put in place a cover-up?

Subject: Death of Adrian von Bidder
Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2011 18:17:18 +0200
From: martin f krafft <>
To: debian private list <>

Dear Debian colleagues,

I have the sad task to communicate to you the news of the death of
Adrian von Bidder (avbidder, cmot), who passed away last Sunday,
most probably of a heart attack.

... [snip] ...

Then we have the case of Jens Schmalzing. The Infodrom web site told us that Jens had fallen off a roof, a common way of committing suicide. Exactly the same details were available on debian-private:

Subject: Jens Schmalzig (jensen) has died
Date: Fri, 5 Aug 2005 09:22:47 +0200
From: Andreas Barth <>

Dear all,

I'm sorry to inform you all that Jens Schmalzig (jensen) died
last Saturday in a tragic accident here in Munich, after falling
down from the roof of his work place. His family has been grieving
his death privately. I'll see if someone in the local Debian
community has more contact with them.

Jens was involved as powerpc porter with the kernel, the installer
and many other places, and as "local" Developer in Munich.
We had lots of good times with him.

Jens, it was a pleasure to have known you. We will miss you.


The public obituary published by Debian includes the word "accident" but it does not include the part about the roof.

When we see how Sledge (Steve McIntyre) refused to rule out the cancer link, when we see Madduck (Martin Krafft) giving a diagnosis that includes the word "probably" and when we see the bit about the rooftop being deliberately omitted, we might be looking at a pattern.

When Thiemo Seufer died in 2008, people were very quick to explain it was a car accident and it was entirely the fault of the other car. They could simply be telling the truth. But this is also what it looks like when a group of people work together to do what they think is best to protect the reputation of the deceased. If this was a fudge then it was far more well rehearsed than the wavering words that appeared about Frans Pop, Jens Schmalzing and Adrian von Bidder.

We have no word whatsoever about what happened to William Lee Irwin III. We don't know if he is alive or dead.

Around the same time (July 2009), there was a confirmed suicide of Richard Rothwell in the UK (official coroner's report). Rothwell had given up a reliable job as a schoolteacher to run a community enterprise startup promoting Xubuntu and LTSP.

If all these deaths and the disappearance were suicides, and it definitely smells like it, then we may be looking at a bona-fide Debian/Ubuntu/FSFE suicide cluster.