Russian businessman named as radiation source in murder case

The international hunt for the killers of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB agent, took a new twist last night as it emerged that a Russian businessman was being investigated as the source of the radiation used in the murder.

Dimitry Kovtun, 41, a former soldier in the Soviet army, and one of three men who met Mr Litvinenko at a hotel on the day he was given a fatal dose of radiation, is the latest suspect in the case.

German police revealed that they had found traces of polonium-210 - the material used in the poisoning - at properties visited by Mr Kovtun in Hamburg before he flew to London to meet Mr Litvinenko.

Hamburg's chief prosecutor Martin Köhnke, commenting on Mr Kovtun, said there was now "a reasonable basis for suspicion that he may not just be a victim but could also be a perpetrator".

He added that the authorities were investigating him on suspicion that he may have handled radioactive material.

Mr Litvinenko, a critic of President Vladimir Putin, whose regime he blames for his murder, was given a massive dose of radiation on 1 November.

His widow, Marina, spoke publicly this weekend for the first time, and blamed the Russian authorities for his death. Russiahas strongly denied carrying out the murder.

Scotland Yard believe Mr Litvinenko was probably poisoned twice, once at a sushi restaurant in Mayfair, and then at the Millennium Hotel, also in central London, where he had a brief meeting with Mr Kovtun and two of his business partners.

Anti-terrorist officers from the Metropolitan Police, are in Russia trying to interview witnesses, including Mr Kovtun, who is in a Moscow hospital where he is said to be suffering from a low dose of radiation poisoning.

If detectives can prove that Mr Kovtun, who denies any wrongdoing, handled polonium-210 before Mr Litvinenko was poisoned, then there would be a strong conspiracy case against him. Detectives from Scotland Yard were reported to be travelling to Germany to investigate the latest findings.

The potential breakthrough came as Hamburg state prosecutors confirmed that that they had found traces of polonium-210 in city locations visited by Mr Kovtun. The radiation was discovered in a flat belonging to Mr Kovtun's former wife, Marina Wall, 31; on documents handed by Mr Kovtun; in a car that he had used; and at the home of his former mother in law.

German authorities said Mr Kovtun spent the night at his ex- wife's flat in the district of Ottensen on 31 October. He flew to London the next day.

Werner Jantosch, the Hamburg police chief heading the case, said: "He [Mr Kovtun] may have been one of the culprits, although we think it is unlikely that the murder plot was hatched in Hamburg." Police said there were no traces of polonium-210 on the flight that Mr Kovtun took from Hamburg to London.

Mr Kovtun, a German residence permit holder, served as a Russian soldier in East Germany and Czechoslovakia. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, he married a German woman whom he later divorced.

German police said Mr Kovtun worked as a business consultant and advised Western companies that wanted to set up operations in Russia.

Widow tells of last visit to spy

The widow of the murdered former Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko spoke yesterday about her husband's last hours. Marina Litvinenko, 44, left, said his final words to her were: "Marina, I love you so much. Even until the last day, and the day before when he became unconscious, I thought he would be okay," she told The Mail on Sunday. "We were both completely sure that he would recover. We had been talking about bone-marrow transplants and looking to the future."

She left her tired and weak husband at night. University College London Hospital telephoned her the following evening at about 9pm, telling her to come as quickly as possible. But by the time she arrived her husband had died.

Jason Bennetto

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
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

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own