BBC World News – 2006-11-24 23:04:27
Police Probe Russian Spy’s Death
BBC World News
LONDON (November 24, 2006) — Counter-terrorism police investigating the death of Russian ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko are examining hours of CCTV footage as they bid to crack the case. Detectives are also trying to trace anyone he met around the time he initially fell ill on 1 November.
The officers have also asked the Kremlin for help, despite Russia denying any involvement in the death.
The ex-spy’s death has been linked to the presence of a “major dose” of radioactive polonium-210 in his body.
Scotland Yard confirmed radioactive traces were also found at Mr Litvinenko’s home, a sushi bar and a hotel, but the risk to others was said to be very low.
The Home Office said anybody concerned should contact NHS Direct on 0845 4647, who have been briefed about this issue.
BBC home affairs correspondent Andy Tighe said various sites are being regarded as crime scenes.Officers are also interviewing witnesses in an attempt to find out who Mr Litvinenko met around the time he fell ill.
Tests are also being carried out at the two London hospitals where Mr Litvinenko had been treated, University College and the Barnet General, the Health Protection Agency said. A post-mortem examination on Mr Litvinenko has not yet been held. The delay is believed to be over concerns about the health implications for those present at the examination.
Medical experts had previously expressed differing opinions over substances that could have possibly led to his death. Initial reports that he was given the heavy metal thallium gave way to other theories including radiation poisoning.
Meanwhile, the government’s civil contingencies committee Cobra has met to discuss the case. Friends have said Mr Litvinenko was poisoned because of his criticism of Russia.
Police searches are taking place at Mr Litvinenko’s house in north London and other places he had been.
In a statement dictated before he died at University College Hospital on Thursday, the 43-year-old accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of involvement in his death.
Mr Litvinenko had recently been investigating the murder of his friend, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, another critic of the Putin government.
Mr Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov reiterated the Kremlin’s earlier dismissal of allegations of involvement in the poisoning as “sheer nonsense”.
Mr Putin himself has said Mr Litvinenko’s death was a tragedy, but he saw no “definitive proof” it was a “violent death”.
Police have been examining two meetings Mr Litvinenko had on 1 November – one at a London hotel with a former KGB agent and another man, and a rendezvous with Italian security consultant Mario Scaramella, at a sushi restaurant in London’s West End.
Mr Litvinenko, who was granted asylum in the UK in 2000 after complaining of persecution in Russia, fell ill later that day.
In an interview with Friday’s Daily Telegraph, former KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi said he had met Mr Litvinenko at the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square but vigorously denied any involvement in the poisoning.
Mr Scaramella, who is involved in an Italian parliamentary inquiry into Russian secret service activity, said they met because he wanted to discuss an e-mail he had received.
1 Nov – Alexander Litvinenko meets two Russian men at a London hotel and then meets Italian academic Mario Scaramella at a sushi bar in Piccadilly. Hours later he falls ill and is admitted to Barnet General Hospital
17 Nov – Mr Litvinenko is transferred to UCH
19 Nov – Reports say Mr Litvinenko is poisoned with thallium
21 Nov – A toxicologist says he may have been poisoned with “radioactive thallium”
22 Nov – Mr Litvinenko’s condition deteriorates overnight. Thallium and radiation ruled out
23 Nov – The ex-spy dies in intensive care
A highly radioactive and toxic element present in foods in low doses small amounts created naturally in the body can be manufactured using the bombardment of neutrons has industrial uses such as in anti-static devices very dangerous if significant dose ingested external exposure not a risk, only if ingested present in tobacco
BBC Reopens Kelly Case with New Film
Maurice Chittenden / BBC World News
LONDON (November 20, 2006) — The BBC is risking a new confrontation with Downing Street by launching an investigation into the death of David Kelly, the scientist at the centre of the storm over the “sexed up” dossier on Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction.
It is reopening the case less than three years after its management virtually imploded with the resignations of Greg Dyke, the director general, and Gavyn Davies, its chairman, in the wake of Lord Hutton’s report into the affair.
The corporation is filming a programme about the alleged suspicious circumstances surrounding Kelly’s death in an Oxfordshire wood.
It has told officials who carried out a post-mortem and toxicology tests on Kelly’s body that it “wants to quash conspiracy theories” about the death. But it has interviewed independent doctors who point to unexplained discrepancies in the results of Kelly’s post-mortem. They suggest that neither the wound to his left wrist nor the drugs found in his body was sufficient to kill him.
The BBC has also spoken to legal experts who say the Hutton inquiry was a poor substitute for an inquest and that a coroner should now be asked to record a verdict on how Kelly died.
The 60-minute documentary is scheduled to be screened in January, just a month after the BBC hopes to have secured an inflation-beating licence fee rise.
The programme will examine in forensic detail the hours leading up to and immediately after Kelly’s death. The weapons inspector disappeared from his home in Oxfordshire on July 17, 2003, about the same time that MI6 withdrew information used in the dossier about the Iraqi arsenal. He was found dead the following day.
The inquest into how he died was adjourned indefinitely because of the Hutton inquiry. Nicholas Gardiner, the coroner, has declined to reopen it because he says there are no “exceptional reasons” to do so.
The BBC programme will examine whether Kelly’s body was moved after it was first found and whether anything was added to the scene.
Michael Powers, a barrister, former coroner and an expert on coroner’s law who has been interviewed by the BBC for the programme, said: “It is my opinion that on the evidence before Hutton, a conclusion that Kelly killed himself should not have been reached. This does not mean either that I am a conspiracy theorist. I am not. Or that I believe Kelly was murdered. I do not know. Suicide cannot be presumed. It has to be proved to the criminal standard: beyond reasonable doubt.”
A spokeswoman for Nicholas Hunt, the forensic pathologist who performed the post-mortem on Kelly, said: “We were approached about a month ago but he is reluctant to take part in the programme. The BBC has a vested interest in the case. We believe the Hutton inquiry was satisfactory in its exploration and that the family should be left in peace.” Thames Valley police have also declined to take part in the documentary.
A BBC spokesman said: “It is too early in the production stage to say what will be in the programme but nobody has tried to prevent us from making it.”
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