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Postmortem on poison spy 'most dangerous ever' Litvinenko medics' radiation risk.

Byline: BEN ROSSINGTON

THE autopsy on poisoned Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was the "most dangerous ever", due to radiation in his body, an inquest heard yesterday.

Mr Litvinenko, 43, died three weeks after drinking laced tea at a hotel in London.

Baffled doctors had desperately tried to figure out what was wrong with him but it was only on the day of his death that they discovered it was radiation poisoning from lethal polonium-210.

Ex-KGB bodyguard Andrey Lugovoy and fellow Russian Dmitry Kovtun are accused of lacing his drink, which they deny.

Home Office pathologist Dr Nathaniel Cary - who carried out the autopsy - yesterday told the public inquest: "It has been described as the most dangerous postmortem ever undertaken in the Western world. That's probably right."

Dr Benjamin Swift, who assisted, called the procedure "exceptional", and added: "I agree it was probably the most dangerous postmortem ever conducted."

The team wore two protective suits each, with gloves taped at the wrist. A radiation officer regularly scanned them and any blood was wiped away instantly.

Medics were on standby outside the isolated room and an evacuation plan was in place. Dr Cary said: "My initial role was to recover a very hazardous body. He was connected to machines. Many were alarming having gone outside their parameters."

Mr Litvinenko fell ill in November 2006, hours after drinking the tea at a meeting with Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun at Millennium Hotel, Mayfair, Central London. He had antibiotics but as he got worse was taken to University College Hospital's intensive care unit in Central London.

His hair fell out, his body swelled and his skin became jaundiced as his organs failed one-by-one, the inquiry heard.

Tests for gamma radiation proved negative and only an "inspired hunch" by a top poison expert made them test for the alpha radiation emitted by polonium-210, which attacked his white blood cells.

Dr Cary and Dr Swift agreed there was no record of such alpha radiation poisoning in the world previously and without its discovery before his death, they would not have tested, or been prepared for it.

The Crown Prosecution Service has tried to extradite Mr Lugovoy and Mr Kovtun to face murder charges but Russia refused. The inquest, by Sir Robert Owen at the Royal Courts of Justice, continues.

ben.rossington@mirror.co.uk

AGONY Spy Mr Litvinenko fades away in hospital

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TARGET Alexander Litvinenko drank laced tea in London

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Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Jan 29, 2015
Words:406
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