When British conspiracy theorist Max Spiers died suddenly in Poland in 2016, it wasn’t surprising that his community of fellow sleuths and UFO hunters thought it was suspicious. Soon after his death, rumours of “black liquid” emerging from his body spread across the internet.
Spiers, 39, had made a career out of investigating alleged government cover-ups of UFO sightings. He was well known, spoke at conferences, and believed there was a secret underground alien base in New Mexico that used children for their “pure energy”.
That summer in 2016, he had travelled to Warsaw to talk at a conference about “secret military programmes”. There he met a woman, Monika Duval, 50, who he soon moved in with. But two months later, however, Spiers was texting his mother claiming he feared being murdered and urging her to “investigate” if anything happened to him.
He died in her home on 16 July 2016. But after his death, the Polish authorities didn’t carry out a post-mortem, and his family were told that he had died of natural causes. In the absence of a full investigation, many in his immediate circle claimed extra-terrestrial involvement in his death, or governmental mind control, or the involvement of a satanic cult.
Now, more than two years on, an inquest in Britain recorded a narrative conclusion, giving Spiers’s cause of death as pneumonia and intoxication by drugs, which caused an “aspiration of gastric contents” – an explanation for the black liquid that had fuelled so many conspiracies. A post-mortem examination carried out by a pathologist in Kent also found deadly levels of oxycodone, an opioid, in his system.
For his mother, Vanessa Bates, the long-awaited inquest has brought a sense of closure, after she fought hard for an investigation into her son’s death. But for members of the conspiracy theory community in which Spiers made his name, the inquest has simply deepened the mystery as to what happened to him.
According to evidence presented at the inquest, Spiers and Duval had become lovers, travelling together on holiday to Cyprus with Duval’s teenage daughter. While there, Duval bought a pharmacy’s “entire stock” of the Turkish version of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax at Spiers’s request, after he realised it could be obtained without a prescription. Spiers was found to have taken about 10 of the tablets on the day he died.
Spiers had a long-standing problem with drugs. Originally from Canterbury, he had developed an addiction at the age of 18 after being prescribed opioids following a traffic accident. It was also revealed that Spiers, who was a former classmate of the Hollywood actor Orlando Bloom, had been addicted to heroin and crack cocaine.
Duval, who had attempted to resuscitate Spiers after he stopped breathing, said she had noticed he often felt ill while staying with her and that “sometimes he felt weak and had problems with focus and attention.” She said he had once spent a day in a deckchair in her garden “unconscious.”
She added: “I would have done anything to save him, I really cared about him. I was deeply in love with him,” she told the inquest.
“If there was anything bound to excite the interest of other conspiracy theorists it was the wholly incompetent initial investigation into his death”
His mother told coroner Christopher Sutton-Mattocks her son’s final message to her said: “‘If anything happens to me, look into it, investigate.’ He even said: ‘I think I might be murdered’. I really think, standing back from it now, that he was just getting himself in more and more of a state.”
Sutton-Mattocks fiercely criticised the Polish police for their “wholly incompetent” handling of Spiers’s death, which saw his body left overnight in the property in which he died after the paramedics left, with no examination and no investigation launched. The coroner said: “Max was a conspiracy theorist and a well-known one at that. If there was anything bound to excite the interest of other conspiracy theorists it was the wholly incompetent initial investigation into his death.”
But for his friends and fellow UFO hunters, the inquest does not settle the questions around his death in Warsaw. His friend and fellow UFO researcher Miles Johnston has insisted that the father-of-two “knew he was going to die” and that the circumstances surrounding his death indicate a large scale cover-up.
He told HuffPost UK: “It’s a cover story for ordinary folk.”
Johnston believes Spiers was a “super-soldier” who was being directed through mind control by the British government. “He was a weaponised system to be engaged in with some kind of warfare,” claims Johnston. In the immediate aftermath of his death, Johnston told BBC Radio Four Spiers had been working to expose “enemies within other realities.”
Johnston, who also heads The Bases Project, which believes humanity and all life on earth will be wiped out by a predator species within three generations, added: “We have now got an unthinkable situation. Max has died for his country and the people on this planet. We’re dealing with aliens. We’re dealing with a predator within humanity, a fifth column, which has been successful so far in causing us a great deal of damage and harm. People like Max were involved in exposing that fifth column. He knew he was going to die. He knew he was in a trap. He told his mother that.”
Spiers’s former girlfriend Sarah Adams remembers things differently. Shortly after his death, she told The Sun he had been held against his will in Poland, in a house surrounded by electric fencing. She claimed that he had wanted to come back to England to marry her, and have a child. “He rang me secretly because they wouldn’t let him talk to me. They were doing very dark black magic and satanic rituals to ‘de-programme’ him and get rid of demons,” she claimed.
Since then, Adams has told HuffPost UK that she is now being blamed for Spiers’s death by an unnamed group who accuse her of murdering him.
One person familiar with the world of conspiracy theorists and how it operates is author, journalist and broadcaster Nick Pope, who used to run the British government’s UFO project at the Ministry of Defence.
Pope, who is often accused of being part of a government cover-up aimed at hiding the truth about UFOs, calls the theories which sprang up following the death of Spiers “unfortunate, erroneous, but entirely predictable”, branding the individuals within the community which continue to perpetrate such beliefs as “enablers”.
“The theory in the conspiracy theory community seems to be that he was assassinated by the powers that be, for getting too close to some truth or truths that the Illuminati, the New World Order – or whoever today’s bad guys happen to be – didn’t want revealed. It’s faulty thinking, because predictably, he and his theories became better-known after his death than before,” Pope told HuffPost UK.
He said there were no sinister men-in-black. “It’s a tragic case of a young man with a history of addiction, suffering from pneumonia and taking a variety of medications. It’s a desperately sad story, but unfortunately not an unusual one.
“I utterly condemn the lack of critical thinking here, not least because it can only add to the family’s distress. The conspiracy theorists will deny them this.″
Karen Douglas, professor of social psychology at the University of Kent, studies the beliefs within conspiracy theories and agrees with Pope that the findings of the inquest will simply fuel further rumours about Spiers’s death. She studies demographic variables such as levels of education, age, and whether believers are part of minority groups in the perpetration of conspiracy theories around topics such as anti-vaccinators and climate change sceptics.
“Often what happens in these situations is that officials are seen as being in on a conspiracy and anyone who endorses these ideas, including medical professionals, will also be seen in that light. Any explanations from these sources to somebody who is already inclined to be mistrustful of government is just not going to be satisfactory.
“It will just be another piece of information to feed into a bigger conspiracy theory; they’ll see it as evidence in support of one, rather than evidence against it.”
Indeed, Pope has found it almost impossible to dissuade people who hold such deeply entrenched beliefs.“I can’t recall a single instance where I’ve discussed anything whether it’s the Moon landings, JFK, 9/11 or Princess Diana and someone has turned around and said ‘you know, I’ve never thought of that’.
“It’s a deeply held, almost religious belief that I think some of these people have and you can talk very few people out of their religion and faith.”
But for his mother, the inquest has allowed her to finally grieve her son. Though she respected and admired his work, she did not subscribe to his beliefs, she said. “He had a belief system. A lot of what he questioned, I would have agreed with him on when it came to the government. It’s when it got into other worldly things that I couldn’t follow, I don’t hold those beliefs myself.”
There is a sense of relief in knowing the full extent of her son’s poor physical health, she added: “The pneumonia was clearly a massive aspect of his death, which I hadn’t realised. In a way, it was good to know that.”