HIS death in Hong Kong in 1980 was classed as suicide despite the fact that he was shot five times, and now a new book claims that Scottish police inspector John MacLennan suffered murder by pressure.

MacLennan, 29, was found dead 38 years ago yesterday with five bullets in his chest. It emerged that he was gay and felt under pressure from the Hong Kong police authorities.

The police in the former Crown Colony pressed for a verdict of suicide but the inquest returned an Open Verdict. Later there was a massive public inquiry which criticised senior figures in the Royal Hong Kong Police Force.

The suicide claim was based on the fact that MacLennan’s doors were locked from the inside and a note was found in his flat saying: “Please, please tell my family that this was an accident and I was a good police officer.”

Now Nigel Collett, a former British Army officer who has lived in Hong Kong since 1985, has written a book that is published next month called A Death in Hong Kong: The Suppression of a Scandal. It follows a previous play and books written about MacLennan’s death.

Writing after the inquest in 1981, the investigative journalist Duncan Campbell, who inquired into the death of the Scot, wrote: “MacLennan’s death is a savage reminder of the style of operation of the notoriously corrupt Hong Kong police. At the centre of the affair is a police campaign against homosexuality; MacLennan was about to be arrested, it was said, by a Special Investigation Unit, which hunted down homosexuals. But the police campaign is more a means of stabilising police power in the colony, than an actual piece of law enforcement.

“In this enterprise, the police have collaborated with the Triad, criminal syndicates procuring youths, and have thus ensnared several government officials in compromising circumstances.

“The police venture had two objectives: first to pursue minor offenders against Hong Kong’s oppressive sexual laws; and second to render more highly placed officials liable to pressure — from the police. Those who complied were secure. One person who did not give in to this racket was an English lawyer; Howard Lindsay. As a result, he was put on trial for homosexual offences last year.”

Journalist and author Kate Whitehead writing in the South China Morning Post this week wrote: “I included MacLennan in my book, Hong Kong Murders, and in the late 1990s interviewed legislator Elsie Tu about the case. MacLennan had told her about his ordeal and he’d said the police had been hounding him. He also told her about the secret files he’d seen when he worked at Special Branch.

“Tu was never convinced of the inquiry’s verdict. Pushed on the decision, she admitted the evidence did point towards suicide but insisted it was still a murder of sorts. He was potentially murdered in so far as he hadn’t a way out, he was pushed into killing himself, Tu said.”

Collett said that MacLennan was pressurised into suicide: “They were out to get him. He was at the time a rather lowly figure in the sights of a much bigger operation.”