Pathologists are no closer to discovering what led to the death of a Russian supergrass in Surrey three weeks ago after a second post-mortem came back inconclusive.
Alexander Perepilichnyy, who collapsed suddenly aged 44 outside his mansion in Weybridge on 10 November, was a witness for Swiss prosecutors investigating a complicated international money laundering scheme used by a Russian organised crime network.
Police ordered follow-up tests after The Independent first broke the news of Mr Perepilichnyy’s death and his role as a whistleblower against the Russian mafia last week.
Detectives had hoped that the second post mortem, performed on Friday afternoon, might shed light on how the seemingly healthy 44-year-old had died amid mounting concerns that he could have been poisoned. He is the fourth man involved in a complex Russian tax fraud to have died suddenly.
But much will now rest on the results toxicology tests. Tissue samples were taken during the first post mortem, which was carried out just a few days after Mr Perepilichnyy’s death. Surrey Police has not said when the samples were sent to the forensics lab. The force does not expect to have the results back for weeks, possibly months.
Associates of Mr Perepilichnyy had complained that Surrey police were slow to act on their advice that the father of two was a key witness against an organised crime syndicate and should have treated his death more seriously.
In sign that the force is now committing more resources towards the investigation the case file has now been handed to the Major Crimes Unit, a group of detectives who specialise in carrying out complex inquiries into terrorism and organised crime.
The security services have also offered advice over the past few days.
The deepening mystery surrounding the Russian businessman’s death came as Moscow ratcheted up pressure against the British investment fund that claims it was ripped off by a cabal of corrupt interior ministry officials and Russian underworld figures.
Hermitage Capital hired the Moscow based lawyer Sergei Magnitsky to investigate the $230m fraud. After he publicly named the accused he was arrested by the same men he had blamed for the fraud and died nine months later in prison. The case has become a source of domestic anger and international embarrassment for Russia but Moscow has ignored calls to go after the perpetrators of the fraud. Instead a posthumous investigation of Mr Magnitksy has been launched.
Yesterday Russia’s Investigative Committee formally rejected the results of the country’s own Human Rights Council which ruled in July 2011 that Mr Magnitsky’s death had been caused by beatings and neglect while in prison. The human rights enquiry was ordered by Russia’s previous President Dmitri Medvedev.