Bungling killers stalked target for two weeks
Andrew Alderson and Richard Gray
Sunday, December 10, 2006
Detectives suspect that the killer of Alexander Litvinenko, the Russian defector, stalked him for at least two weeks, waiting for an opportune moment to poison him.
Officers also believe that the assassin handled the deadly polonium 210 so carelessly that he contaminated himself and put other lives at risk.
One investigator said yesterday that while the poison could have been sophisticated, the murderer, or murderers, appear to have left a "crass" trail of radioactive contamination all over London.
Sources close to the inquiry have told The Sunday Telegraph that the polonium was almost certainly smuggled into Britain then stored — before being moved around as the plotters waited for their moment to strike.
Detectives believe that the assassin, or team of assassins, were looking to kill Litvinenko from as early as October 16. The radioactive substance is thought to have been slipped into his tea at the Millennium Hotel, in central London, on November 1.
advertisementA team of nine British detectives in Moscow hope to interview three Russians who met Litvinenko at the hotel, supposedly to discuss a business deal. They are Andrei Lugovoy, 40, Dmitry Kovtun, 40, and Vyacheslav Sokolenko, 37. Mr Kovtun has already been interviewed.
All three men deny poisoning the Russian defector, but two of them, Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun, have apparently tested positive for polonium 210. Mr Lugovoy says that he believes someone is trying to frame him for the murder.
It was revealed yesterday that traces of radiation have been found in a flat in Hamburg known to have been used by Mr Kovtun. A German airliner on which he flew is also being tested.
It has also been disclosed that Mario Scaramella, who was at the sushi restaurant where the poisoning was originally thought to have occurred, is a failed spy who tried to join the Italian secret service three times but was turned down.
Yesterday, the Italian was still in London after doctors at University College Hospital gave him the all-clear. Police are now questioning a Russian assistant of Mr Scaramella.