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Maxwell’s Crew Ordered to Stay in Canary Islands

November 11, 1991 GMT

MADRID, Spain (AP) _ The crew of Robert Maxwell’s yacht has been ordered to stay in the Canary Islands, a court spokesman said today, amid new speculation about whether the publisher was murdered last week.

Maxwell’s widow was quoted in London as saying her husband had many enemies and could have been pushed overboard. His personal physician questioned a preliminary autopsy report that said the 68-year-old Maxwell died of natural causes, possibly a heart attack, before falling into the sea.

The court spokesman, Jose Luis Santos, said the yacht’s 11 crew members were told to stay on Tenerife until the judge investigating Maxwell’s death took statements from them. He said Judge Isabel Oliva had planned to finish interviewing the crew today, but that other court business prevented that.

Earlier, the Spanish lawyer for the Maxwell family said he understood the crew had been ordered to stay until a final autopsy report is issued. The results of laboratory tests are expected sometime this week. The attorney, Julio Hernandez Claverie, said he would not rule out murder as a possible cause of death until final autopsy results are reported.

Maxwell’s body was found floating in the Atlantic on Tuesday, several hours after he was reported missing by the crew of the Lady Ghislaine.

Claverie stressed that the initial autopsy report was provisional.

″Absolutely anything is possible - it could be a murder, it could be an accident, it could be absolutely anything,″ he said in a telephone interview from the Canary Islands, a Spanish island group off the Moroccan coast.

″Until there is a final autopsy report, everything is speculation - opinions, nothing more,″ he said.

In Britain, Maxwell’s physician, Dr. Joseph Joseph, was quoted as saying he did not believe Maxwell died of a heart attack. He told The Sunday Times that Maxwell was in good health four weeks ago and did not have a heart condition.

Speaking of the Spanish coroner’s preliminary report, Joseph said: ″There was no sign of a heart attack per se. It was just an informed guess.″

Some people have raised the possibility of suicide because of the financial troubles besetting Maxwell’s $2 billion publishing empire.

The Sunday Times said Goldman, Sachs & Co. had informed Maxwell just before he left on the cruise that he would have to sell several million shares in his Maxwell Communication Corp. to cover a debt to the investment firm.

The Sunday Telegraph reported that British authorities had begun a secret inquiry into trading of Maxwell Communication shares. It said the probe was believed to be looking at whether Maxwell had used his private companies to trade in the shares to artificially push up the stock’s price.

But his widow, Elisabeth, told the Sunday Mirror, the flagship of her husband’s Mirror Group Newspapers in Britain, that he would not have killed himself.

A rabbi also disputed the suicide theory. Rabbi Reivish Vogel, director of the Lubavitch Foundation in Britain, said Maxwell told him by phone the day before his death that he planned to go to Moscow in a few days to recover valuable Jewish books from the Lenin Library.

Mrs. Maxwell said she considered a heart attack a possibility, ″even though I had been told he had a strong heart.″

But she also said: ″I toyed with every possibility - that he had been pushed in by someone planted there. There were so many people who hated him. He had many threats. Many people would be delighted to bump him off.″

The New York Post quoted Maxwell’s daughter Christina as speculating that someone caused her father to have a heart attack. ″My suspcions are he was injected with a shot that puts air in your body inducing a heart attack,″ she said.

Shortly before his death, Maxwell was accused in the book ″The Samson Option″ of helping Israel’s intelligence agency to apprehend an Israeli who leaked his nation’s nuclear weapons secrets. Maxwell denied the claim by American journalist Seymour Hersh.

The Jewish publisher was buried in Jerusalem Sunday in an elaborate ceremony befitting a head of state. Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, President Chaim Herzog and former Soviet Jewish dissident Natan Sharansky were among hundreds of dignitaries and other well-wishers who paid their respects.

Despite the Spanish autopsy, a British pathologist examined Maxwell’s body at the request of insurance companies, a spokesman for the Mirror Group Newspapers said in London today.

Dr. Iain West, head of forensic medicine at Guy’s Hospital, London, examined Maxwell’s body in Israel instead of in the Canary Islands to avoid delaying the funeral, said a spokesman for the late publisher’s firm.

The spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said West had the approval of Maxwell’s family.

Kevin Maxwell, one of the publisher’s sons and new chairman of Maxwell Communication Corp., said insurance companies were always going to want to carry out their own tests when large insurance policies are involved.