Last March, a British journalist was found hanged in his hotel room in the Chilean capital of Santiago. Initially, his death was labeled a suicide, but today there is talk in Santiago that Jonathan Moyle uncovered something so sensitive that someone killed him.

Latin America's biggest air show brought Moyle to Chile. He was the editor of the international specialty magazine, Defense Helicopter World, and an expert on helicopters. The Chilean Air Force was host to his visit.

Moyle's father, Anthony Moyle, told us that before Moyle left his home in London, he was eager to investigate rumors in the helicopter industry that Cardoen Industries, a Chilean arms supplier, was building a fleet of advanced attack helicopters to sell to Iraq for $500 million.

Carlos Cardoen is the biggest private arms maker in Latin America. Cardoen is retrofitting an old Bell 206 helicopter (called a LongRanger) originally built in the United States. We have obtained Cardoen documents that describe its capabilities as an attack helicopter.

Iraq is a regular customer of Cardoen. But Jorge Ochoa, vice president of Cardoen Industries, denied reports that Iraq has placed an order for 50 of the helicopters, and he said, "It's a civilian multipurpose helicopter that could possibly be adapted to other uses."

The Chilean press is full of speculation about Moyle's death. If Iraqi agents killed Moyle, they didn't do Cardoen any favors. The last thing the company needed was a dead journalist to complicate the already controversial helicopter project, especially at a time when Cardoen is seeking certification for the helicopter from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration. The United States has imposed an arms embargo against Iraq.

Cardoen Industries appears to have been congenial with Moyle in Santiago. Ochoa told us that he never met Moyle.

A week after Moyle's arrival in Santiago, a hotel maid found him dead in a closet; he was hanging by his shirt from a clothes rack with a pillow case over his head. Evidence of tranquilizers was found in his blood. There was no note.

With no sign of a struggle, British and Chilean authorities wrote Moyle off as a suicide. But his family and friends are not convinced. He was engaged to be married. He had been talking eagerly about getting a house. He was excited about his work.

"Suicide was not part of his character," said his father, who spoke to Moyle half an hour before his death. "He was an outgoing, gregarious chap, financially secure, held a job that was taking him places, and was due to be married in June. He spoke of his plans to go to La Paz to cover a Bolivian Air Force anti-drug expedition. He also talked about taking his future father-in-law flying. . . . "

Moyle's father told our associate Melinda Maas that when the family started asking questions, they bumped up against a conspiracy of silence. The British Embassy in Santiago said the death was a police problem. The Foreign Office in London told British diplomats not to talk publicly about Moyle.