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November 19, 2006

Alexander Litvinenko

Oh dear. Whether Alexander Litvinenko was in fact poisoned I have no idea and the fact that he's seriously ill is of course tragic. However, this is nonsense:

Mr Litvinenko is thought to have been poisoned with thallium, a colourless and odourless liquid that is often used to kill rats. It has been used in previous murder attempts of political opponents.

Thallium is indeed poisonous, highly so, and yes, compounds of it have been used in attempted murders. However, it is not a clear, colouless liquid. It is a metal:

This soft gray malleable poor metal resembles tin but discolors when exposed to air.

A business buddy actually buys it: it's used to make the faceplates for deep sea divers (a very high index of refraction can be achieved).

What is probably meant is thallium sulfate:

The odorless and tasteless thallium sulfate was widely used in the past as a rat poison and ant killer.

But even this is not a liquid.

So don't believe everything you read in the papers folks!

November 19, 2006 in Telegraph Watch. | Permalink


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Nostalgia is getting almost just like it used to be . .

"Georgi Markov was a Bulgarian writer who lived in his home country until 1969, when at the age of 40 he defected to the west. Living in London, he worked as a broadcast journalist for the BBC, radio free Europe, and the German Deutsche Welle. . . There were three attempts on Markovs' life. During a dinner party given by friends at radio free Europe, someone slipped a toxin into his drink, this and another attempt on his life in Sardinia failed. The successful attempt took place in London on September 7th [1978], Zhivkov's birthday.

"Markov worked a double shift at the BBC, and after working the early morning shift, returned home to rest. On returning to work he parked his car South of Waterloo Bridge and made his way to the bus stop to catch the bus to the BBC headquarters. As he neared the people queuing for the bus he felt a stabbing pain in his right thigh, he turned to see a man facing away from him stoop and pick up an umbrella. The man apologised in a foreign accent and departed hurriedly in a taxi. Markov latter described the man as thick set and about 40 years old. In pain Markov boarded the bus for work, where he told colleagues what had happened. He noticed a spot of blood on his jeans, and showed a friend a pimple like red swelling on his thigh. When he returned home he became very sick, with a high fever. The next day Markov was admitted to St James's hospital, Balham. . . "

Posted by: Bob B | Nov 19, 2006 8:29:58 AM

Wasn't thallium the poison of choice for one of Britain's worst (home-grown) poisoners? Can't remember his name (and can't be bothered to Google), but he was an oddball who poisoned his co-workers (killing two or three) & got sent to prison, where I think he died. It was one one of those oddly compelling 'Great Crimes & Trials' programmes not so long ago.

As soon as the BBC said Litvinenko had lost his hair, etc I thought 'Thallium...!'...

Posted by: JuliaM | Nov 19, 2006 12:41:41 PM

Graham Young. Try this on on the risks of releasing serial killers after they have been "rehabilitated":

Posted by: Bob B | Nov 19, 2006 12:57:20 PM

Like the "poisoning" of the Ukraining leader this will probably turn out to be without evidence. Even his own doctor refused to say any poison was involved until he was fired, but the media pushed the story for all it was worth, which turned out to be quite a lot.

Like him he is almost certainly going to survice which suggests a double degree of incompetence for which the KGB were not previously known.

The only major recent poisoning story, which for obvious reasons did not get much coverage was the Milosevic murder.

A locked room mystery if not exactly up to conan Doyle standards.

The victim was certainly poisoned, blood tests proved it.
He was imprisoned in a locked room.
He was under 24 hour video surveillance.
He was fed by NATO guards.
Anybody but NATO officials were searched.
The poison was a complicated prescription drug to which only a major organisation (like NATO) would have been able to organise.
The NATO member coroner decided not to investigate further despite accepting the proof of poison.
Only somebody who knew the pro-NATO judges were not going to allow him to go to hospital where the poisoning would have been noticed would have risked it.
After 4 1/2 years & 60 counts the NATO prosecuter had produced no evidence but any sort of acquital would have proven NATO leaders to be guilty.
|Milosevic had destroyed the NATO case on every point.

So who dunnit & is it possible for any journalist who is more critical of Russia over this nonsense than NATO over the Milosevic murder to be anything but wholly corrupt & dishonest?

Posted by: Neil Craig | Nov 19, 2006 4:19:38 PM

The strange thing about "Neil Craig",is that unlike the NuLabour boosters on CommentIsFree, bizarre hangover Communists like him go about their disinformation out of the love of it - they don't even have to be paid. Of course that doesn't make what he says true, or even possible, but he believes it, or believes the situation needs it.

Posted by: dave heasman | Nov 20, 2006 3:47:56 PM

Bob B says: "Graham Young"

Ah, yes, thanks, that's the guy. Not someone about whom you could reasonably say 'Well, he doesn't look like a mad poisoner...'

Posted by: JuliaM | Nov 20, 2006 6:02:50 PM

It is Po-210, see:


Incompetent medics failed to diagnose acute radiation poisoning from internal exposure to the heavy element polonium-210, the most deadly radioactive material on earth due to its short half-life of 140 days (plutonium-239 has a 24,400 years half life so each atom of that emits only one alpha particle per 35,100 years, which is a comparatively low dose rate - the average life is always 1.44 times the half-life with simply one-stage decay chain exponentially decaying radionuclides). ...

Notice Po-210 has a half-life of 140 days, and is a high-energy alpha emitter. Plutonium-239 for contrast has a half-life of 24,400 years so the specific activity of Po-210 (decays per second or Becquerels, per gram) is way higher. The shorter the half life, the more decays per second!Po-210 was used with beryllium as the neutron source (initiator) in the early 1945 nuclear weapons. Alpha particles hitting beryllium fission it, releasing neutrons. This was responsible for most of the deaths after the Windscale nuclear reactor fire in England in 1957. The pile was producing Po-210 for British nuclear bomb tests in Maralinga, but the government kept that secret, claiming that only iodine-131 had been released. (They didn't want the Americans to know Britain was still using obsolete 1945 nuclear initiator technology!)

Posted by: nc | Nov 24, 2006 7:43:27 PM

Well most elements are not liquids. Only 2 are. And thallium can be made into a solution with the adding of different dissolvents.

Posted by: Dick | Nov 25, 2006 4:58:27 AM

Well most elements are not liquids. Only 2 are. And thallium can be made into a solution with the adding of different dissolvents.

Posted by: Dick | Nov 25, 2006 4:58:54 AM

The bottom line is: Alex Litvinenko named the man who killed him.

It is shameful indeed that Putin and his gang of conscienceless murderers have not yet been put on trial by the United Nations for their heinous crimes.

Posted by: Daria | Nov 25, 2006 6:56:26 AM

As an anti-communist whoselife has been robed by the comrades and as a writer I can tell Yoy that Georgi Markov has never deffected. As an cooperative of the communist represive secret service he has been sent to England. There are lot os facts which prove this allegation. I have written some of them. The worst and pitiful thing is that You in the West threw away the hand of the real democratic opposition and embraced the communists. And You have to know that there is no such an animal as "former communist". It's a life long disease.
God bles the good people in the East!

Posted by: Georgi Ifandiev | Nov 25, 2006 11:50:41 PM

What's interesting about this is the point that the Russian's were blowing up buildings and blaming it on Chechen's in order to fuel public opinion against the Chechen's (as if they needed any). Hmm, so who else would be as devious and evil to execute such a thing to truly walk on the dark side?

You got it: the controlled demolition of the world trade center and then blame it on Saddam (American's are not know for their brilliance or geographical talents). Talk about shock and awe - much like the Germans in the Weimar Republic proved, most people are sheep.

Litvinenko is the exception.


Posted by: Robert Jones | Nov 26, 2006 1:30:04 AM