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ENDURING LONDON SPY MYSTERY CLOSURE NEAR

The bizarre death in London of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov on 11 September 1978, has long been regarded as the work of the KGB. It was a chilling Cold War incident that sparked a huge international manhunt. Markov’s death briefly baffled investigators, but the truth, when it emerged, seemed more science fiction than fact. Every effort was made by Scotland Yard to capture Markov’s killer, but political gamesmanship and Cold War spy games often hindered the police. Though forensic specialists quickly determined how Markov died, it has taken 27 years for his killer to be identified. The irony is, the murderer was actually detained and questioned in the early 1990s.

GEORGI MARKOV

was a brilliant novelist and playwright in the former communist country of Bulgaria. In 1969 he defected to the West and appeared regularly on radio broadcasts for the BBC’s eastern European service and other foreign radio stations. His outspoken criticism of Bulgaria’s links to Moscow made him a target and he was warned on more than one occasion that

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his life was in danger. The Security Service (MI5) monitored his movements and often passed on warnings. In the end, one particular threat was taken seriously - Markov was informed intelligence had been received that

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AGENT PICCADILLY Named as Deadly Umbrella Assassin...

Waterloo Bridge, London. It was here while waiting for a bus, Markov was jabbed in the leg by an assassin using an umbrella and a ricin-laced pellet (above)

gators deduced that someone had slipped poison into his drink. He survived. The second assassination attempt came on the island of Sardinia while visiting his family. Full details are not known, though it has been surmised that pieces of fruit were laced with toxins. The third attempt was successful and involved a cunning plot sponsored and devised by the KGB.

spoke of a foreign assassin armed with poison. The Bulgarian changed a few of his habits and would only eat with friends, but his anti-Soviet broadcasts continued. In June 1977, Todor Zhivkov, Bulgaria’s fanatically pro-Soviet ruler, instructed his interior minister, General Stoyan Savov to “silence Markov.” At least three attempts on Markov’s life were made. In Spring 1978, Markov attended a dinner at Radio Free Europe. He began to feel unwell. Investi-

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Todor Zhivkov

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On 7 September, Markov woke to his 49th birthday, but this did not stop him

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Bush House, London, where Markov broadcast his anti-communist programmes

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