Famous Unsolved Crimes Murder of Georgi Markov Part 1

About a famous unsolved crime involving the murder of Georgi Markov, history of the investigation, clues, and unanswered questions.


Georgi Markov Murder (1978)

The Crime: Six months before he was murdered in September, 1978, Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian defector broadcasting in London for the BBC and the U.S.-funded Radio Free Europe, was informed that he was going to be eliminated. The word came from an anonymous fellow Bulgarian. The Communists planned to make the murder look like a natural death resulting from a very high fever caused by a flu or virus. The real method would be untraceable. Markov didn't laugh off the threat; he just hoped it wouldn't happen. But it did. On Sept. 7, 1978, about 6:30 P.M., the 49-year-old Markov was walking from his car to his night-shift BBC commentator's job when he felt a sharp sting on the back of his right thigh. He turned to see a stranger holding a closed umbrella. "I'm sorry," the man said in a thick accent and disappeared into a taxi.

Markov appeared to be fine for the next 10 hours, but then he complained of a fever to his wife and soon he began vomiting. Taken to the hospital, he told doctors, "I've been poisoned. The umbrella man could have been an assassin." Four days later Markov was dead.

The Investigation: British police, Scotland Yard's antiterrorist squad, and intelligence agents took Markov's dying claim seriously. At first all lab tests failed to explain his death, except to indicate that he had suffered blood poisoning. Microbiological warfare experts finally tested skin tissue from Markov's thigh and found a minuscule platinum-iridium pellet, much smaller than the head of a pin. The pellet had two holes drilled into it at right angles and was proved to have contained a deadly poison. Long periods of testing finally identified the poison as ricin, a derivative of the castor-oil plant. (Most research on ricin has occurred in Eastern Europe.) Scientists injected an equal amount of ricin into a pig, and it died in 25 hours; Markov had lasted four days. Significantly, even if the doctors had known the nature of the poison, they would not have been able to save Markov. There is no known antidote for ricin.

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