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

PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Savvy Media Ltd: Media Sales executive - Crawley

£25k + commission + benefits: Savvy Media Ltd: Find a job you love and never h...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Solicitor NQ+ Oxford

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: CORPORATE - Corporate Solicitor NQ+ An excelle...

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

In a world of Saudi bullying, right-wing Israeli ministers and the twilight of Obama, Iran is looking like a possible policeman of the Gulf

Iran is shifting from pariah to possible future policeman of the Gulf

Robert Fisk on our crisis with Iran
The young are the new poor: A third of young people pushed into poverty

The young are the new poor

Sharp increase in the number of under-25s living in poverty
Greens on the march: ‘We could be on the edge of something very big’

Greens on the march

‘We could be on the edge of something very big’
Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby - through the stories of his accusers

Revealed: the case against Bill Cosby

Through the stories of his accusers
Why are words like 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?

The Meaning of Mongol

Why are the words 'mongol' and 'mongoloid' still bandied about as insults?
Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible