LONDON (Reuters) – Pathologists examining the body of ex-KGB spy Alexander Litvinenko, poi-soned with a rare radioactive isotope nine years ago in London, carried out the world’s most dan-gerous ever autopsy on his body, an inquiry into his killing heard on Wednesday.
They also said they would probably never have discovered the way he had died had unusual tests not been carried out just before his death.
British police say Kremlin critic Litvinenko died three weeks after drinking tea poisoned with polonium-210 at the plush Millennium hotel, which they believe was administered by two Rus-sians Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitri Kovtun.
At its opening at London’s High Court on Tuesday, the inquiry was told Litvinenko had told police Russian President Vladimir Putin had personally ordered his death.
His widow’s lawyer said this was to partly to cover up Kremlin links to the mafia which the former spy was going to help Spanish intelligence to expose.
Russia and the two suspects have repeatedly rejected any involvement in the death.
Litvinenko’s health deteriorated rapidly after his meeting with Lugovoy and Kovtun on Nov. 1, 2006 and he died later that month having suffered multiple organ failure.
The inquiry was told “an inspired hunch” by police led them to bring in atomic scientists who found Litvinenko tested positive for alpha radi-ation poisoning two days before he died.
Lead pathologist Nat Cary said without that,
the cause of death would not have been disco-vered in a post-mortem, adding he was unaware of any other case of someone being poisoned with alpha radiation in Britain, and probably the world.
Co-pathologist Benjamin Swift told the inquiry: “It was probably the most dangerous post-mortem that’s ever been conducted.”
Those involved had needed to wear two white protective suits with specialised hoods fed with filtered air.