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One last service from Sir Mark Sykes

Sir Mark Sykes has been called on 90 years after his death to render one last service. Sir Sykes arranged for the division of the defeated Ottoman Empire and the creation of Turkey after the first World War in the Sykes-Picot agreement. An MP, a sculptor, the father of six, a commander in the Boer War, the author of four books, and the manager of the biggest estate in Yorkshire, Sykes died at 39 in 1919 at the Versailles Peace Conference.

According to a Guardian report, Sykes was the victim of the Spanish flu epidemic which claimed at least 30 million lives and was caused by an avian virus, H1N1, similar to the current virus, H5N1. He is known to have been buried in a sealed lead coffin.

John Oxford, professor of virology at Queen Mary's College, London, who heads the research team, said there were only five useful samples around the world from the 1918-19 epidemic. Body samples from Sykes "could provide unparalleled insight into the mechanism by which bird flu kills, and, with luck, contribute to finding a treatment".