Sindona Clinically Dead; Suicide or Murder Suspected

United Press International

Michele Sindona, a former Vatican financial adviser and convicted swindler, was declared clinically dead Friday as investigators tried to determine whether he was murdered or committed suicide with poison.

Doctors at Voghera hospital, where the 65-year-old financier was taken Thursday after collapsing in his prison cell, said electroencephalogram monitors registered no brain activity during the night, meaning Sindona was clinically dead.

The doctors initially believed that Sindona--principal figure in the biggest U.S. bank failure in history, that of the Franklin National Bank--had suffered a stroke. But later tests showed he had ingested poison-- probably potassium cyanide, the doctors said.

"There is nothing to indicate whether it is a case of suicide or murder," Francesco De Socio, the Voghera public prosecutor told reporters. "There is no possibility of considering death was due to natural causes."

News reports said Sindona--convicted of murder two days before his collapse--apparently absorbed a dose of cyanide placed in the plastic cup of coffee he drank with his breakfast. Investigators said the report could not be confirmed until a forensic examination of the breakfast remains is conducted.

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