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24 Jun, 2008 00:12

British police probe ‘umbrella murder’ thirty years on

Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov died after being stabbed in the leg with a poisoned umbrella in September 1978 at the height of the Cold War. Now, 30 years later, London's Metropolitan Police have suddenly intensified the investigation of the unsolved c

Some link it to another murder that caused media uproar – the case of Aleksandr Litvinenko, a former Russian security officer, who was poisoned with the radioactive substance Polonium-210 in November 2006, also in London.

Ten years after Georgi Markov’s death Velislav Radev joined the BBC's Bulgarian Service, which the dissident used to work for after fleeing Bulgaria.

“From what I understand detectives are trying to find any connections between any suspicious murders with any similarities that may throw light on Litvinenko’s murder in London,” Radev said.

“It’s just amazing that in the year 2008 we are dealing with the same media tension. If you swapped the names, you could easily have Aleksandr Litvinenko instead of Georgi Markov. It’s extraordinary that 30 years later the language still remains the same. I personally find it difficult to see how a very sophisticated murder committed in our days has any bearings to the events of 1978 in London,” he added.

The police last visited Bulgaria in March 2008 and before that in late April 2007, although the Bulgarian Interior Ministry files on the case had already been destroyed. Some say this new wave of interest in the case could be just a demonstration that no one gets away with murder.

At the same time, an independent investigation claimed that Francesco Guillino, an Italian, committed the murder. He was questioned for six hours by Scotland Yard in 1993, but the questioning was inconclusive and his current whereabouts are unknown.

So what could have sparked this new wave of interest to the case?

“Bulgaria is a nice place to go visiting,” jokes Financial Times’ International Affairs Editor, Quentin Peel. “It is a very strange country at the moment – there are still a lot of people around who used to be involved in things like this. So perhaps you could find them by the seaside, but at the end of the day I hope they are not spending a huge amount of money on this.”