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Michael Baigent, 65, sued over ‘Da Vinci Code’

Mr. Baigent wrote the bestseller “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” a speculative history, with Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln.

Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press/file 2006

Mr. Baigent wrote the bestseller “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” a speculative history, with Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln.

NEW YORK — Michael Baigent, a writer who gained wide attention when he filed an ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit contending that the novelist Dan Brown had stolen his ideas and used them in the best-selling thriller “The Da Vinci Code,” died on June 17, in Brighton, England. He was 65.

The cause was a brain hemorrhage, said his agent, Ann Evans.

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Mr. Baigent had a bestseller of his own, in 1982, the speculative history “The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail” (released in the United States as “Holy Blood, Holy Grail”), which he wrote with Richard Leigh and Henry Lincoln.

The book hypothesized that Jesus had married Mary Magdalene and that a secretive group called the Priory of Sion protected their descendants — essential plot elements in “The Da Vinci Code,” which was published in 2003 and adapted for a film in 2006. “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” was often characterized as nonfiction, though it appeared on the fiction best-seller list in The New York Times.

Mr. Baigent and Leigh sued Brown’s publisher, Random House UK, for copyright infringement.

High Court Justice Peter Smith ruled in 2006 that though Brown had relied on the work of Mr. Baigent and Leigh, similarities in their books did not violate copyright. Mr. Baigent and Leigh were ordered to pay millions in legal fees. Leigh died in 2007.

Brown acknowledged that he had read the book but said he had come to it late in the process of writing “The Da Vinci Code.” (He said he named one character, Sir Leigh Teabing, in homage to Leigh and Mr. Baigent, “Teabing” being an anagram of “Baigent.”)

Michael Feran Baigent was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, and graduated from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand in 1972. He was a commercial photographer before he published “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” his first book. He went on to write others about historical and religious conspiracies, some with Leigh and Lincoln. His most recent was “Racing Toward Armageddon.’’

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