Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler's former deputy, died after hanging himself by wrapping an electrical cord around his neck, a British spokesman said today.
Hess' death was announced Monday, but its cause was not revealed until today because the four World War II allies who held him in the Spandau War Crimes Prison had to approve all statements concerning him.
The announcement said Hess, who was 93, went into a hut in the prison garden Monday afternoon and a few minutes later was found by a guard with an electric cable around his neck.
U.S. soldiers were guarding the Allied prison at the time.
Attempts were made to revive Hess, and he was taken to the nearby British Military Hospital, where he was declared dead at 4:10 p.m., the announcement said.
It said an autopsy is being conducted to determine whether the suicide attempt was the actual cause of death.
Hess, who never renounced Hitler or the Nazi atrocities, had grown increasingly depressed toward the end of his life.
He had tried to commit suicide three times before in the cavernous prison, where he was the sole inmate for 21 years. In February, 1977, he tried to kill himself by cutting his wrist, elbow and leg with a dull table knife.
Officials said Hess' body will be handed over to relatives, allaying fears among his family that the remains would be secretly disposed of by authorities to prevent his grave from being turned into a shrine for neo-Nazis.
Hess was the last of seven top Nazi leaders sent to the Spandau prison in the British sector of Berlin, which is run jointly by Britain, France, the United States and the Soviet Union.
A Western Allied spokesman, who announced the death on behalf of the United States, Britain and France, said Hess' remains will be released to his family soon after an autopsy.
British spokesman Anderson Purdon said the 116-year-old red-brick prison has served its purpose and will now be demolished.
Purdon's announcement said Hess died in the prison, but Western Allied officials who asked not to be named said he was taken to the hospital from the prison at 3:45 p.m. and died there at 4:10 p.m.
The officials said the announcement was prepared long in advance for release upon Hess' death, and it was not immediately possible to get all four powers' permission to modify it.
Hess' son, Wolf Ruediger Hess, 49, a Munich engineer, arrived at Spandau Prison on Monday night. Hess also is survived by his 87-year-old wife, Ilse.
The Allied statement removed fears by Hess' family that the World War II victors might dispose of his body the same way they did those of Luftwaffe chief Hermann Goering and 10 other Nazi leaders sentenced to death at the Nuremberg war crimes trials.
Their ashes were secretly dumped in a Bavarian river because of the fear their graves might become Nazi shrines.
Hess obituary, Page 8.