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.

Arts and Entertainment
Sydney and Melbourne are locked in a row over giant milk crates
art
News
Netherlands' goalkeeper Tim Krul fails to make a save from Costa Rica's midfielder Celso Borges during a penalty shoot-out in the quarter-final between Netherlands and Costa Rica during the 2014 FIFA World Cup
newsGoalkeepers suffer from 'gambler’s fallacy' during shoot-outs
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsEnd-of-year leaver's YouTube film features playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act
News
Two giraffes pictured on Garsfontein Road, Centurion, South Africa.
i100
News
i100This Instagram photo does not prove Russian army is in Ukraine
News
Kenny Ireland, pictured in 2010.
peopleActor, from House of Cards and Benidorm, was 68
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Sport
sportVan Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Environment
View from the Llanberis Track to the mountain lake Llyn
Du’r Arddu
environmentA large chunk of Mount Snowdon, in north Wales, is up for sale
Life and Style
Martha Stewart wrote an opinion column for Time magazine this week titled “Why I Love My Drone”
lifeLifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot... to take photos of her farm
News
i100
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Environment
Tyred out: should fair weather cyclists have a separate slow lane?
environmentFormer Labour minister demands 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists
News
people
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices