Secret documents say Markov's killer was given a medal

As Bulgarian authorities close the file on the murder of the dissident journalist in London in 1978, newly-released papers have shed fresh light on one of the most infamous episodes of the Cold War

The assassination of the journalist Georgi Markov in London in 1978 by a man wielding a poison-tipped umbrella was one of the most infamous episodes of the Cold War and brought relations between Britain and Bulgaria to breaking point. Thirty years on, with the Bulgarian authorities closing the case on the anniversary of the dissident's death this Thursday, secret official documents have uncovered the truth behind the killing.

The papers, from the archives of Bulgaria's National Intelligence Service reveal how discussions about the assassination took place between the KGB and the Bulgarian intelligence services. They show how the suspected killer, Francesco Gulino (also spelt Gullino and Giullino), referred to as Agent Piccadilly, was given the mission and later decorated for his services. Among the documents is a secret agreement between Bulgarian intelligence and the KGB, whereby Russia would provide fast-acting poisons and devices for their delivery.

Several classified documents relating to the assassination, secured after a three-year legal battle by the Bulgarian journalist Hristo Hristov, are to be published in Bulgaria's Dnevnik newspaper this week.

Other revelations in the Bulgarian newspaper Sofia Echo suggest parallels with the case of Alexander Litvinenko, the critic of the Russian Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, who was fatally poisoned in London in 2006.

While the Bulgarian authorities are preparing to shelve their investigations, under a 30-year statute of limitations, the Metropolitan Police remain on the case. Several visits have been made by Scotland Yard in the past two years to gain access to classified documents and interview dozens of people.

Gulino's current whereabouts are unknown, but it is believed that British detectives are trying to track him down as he remains the sole suspect. The Met refused to comment but confirmed that detectives would return to Bulgaria in the near future. A spokesman said: "This inquiry remains open and has been a particularly complex investigation. We continue to work with the appropriate international authorities to investigate any new information that is passed or made available to police."

The Foreign Office is stepping up pressure on Bulgaria to help bring Markov's killer to justice. A spokesman said: "We are seeking confirmation from the Bulgarian authorities that co-operation will continue and that the files and archives will remain open when the statute of limitations passes."

Alice Dilke, Markov's mother-in-law, criticised the Bulgarian government for not doing more, but welcomed the news that, as far as Britain is concerned, the case remains open. "I'm delighted the British police are continuing to investigate the case. It was a horrible thing to happen and it's never been cleared up," she said.

Mrs Dilke revealed how Markov had predicted his death: "He always thought he'd be poisoned and watched his back, so to speak, but he never envisaged what did happen to him." She recalled threats he received before his death: "He had been threatened before, and my daughter had been rung up and told he should shut up or there would be dire consequences."

The death of her son-in-law has scarred family, said Mrs Dilke, whose daughter Annabel was left widowed with a young child. "It is very distressing for my granddaughter and my daughter. It crops up so much and it's always painful for them. We all just wish it could come to an end."

The world in 1978

* The frost of the Cold War was deep and hard in 1978, with Russia beginning its ill-fated involvement in Afghanistan's civil war.

* Britain's Prime Minister, James Callaghan, was still clinging on to power until, battered by the "winter of discontent", he was ousted by the Tories under Margaret Thatcher, just months later.

* Keith Moon, the drummer with The Who, died, of a drugs overdose.

* 13-year-old paperboy Carl Bridgewater was shot dead at an isolated farmhouse in Staffordshire.

* Millions were given hope by the birth of Louise Brown, the world's first "test-tube baby", in Manchester.

* Ray Reardon won his sixth snooker world championship and Argentina won the World Cup, beating Holland 3-1.

* 'Saturday Night Fever' unleashed a storm of bad clothing and worse dancing as the Bee Gees soundtrack leapt to number one in the album charts.

* Space Invaders was the latest craze; petrol cost 76p per gallon, and the average house cost £13,650.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
people
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower