19 November 2006

Georgi Markov

The case of Alexander Litvinenko who is alleged to have been poisoned with thallium reminds Dr Grumble of the story of Georgi Markov. Georgi was a Bulgarian who defected in 1969 and settled in London. In the late 1970s he turned up at a hospital where Dr Grumble used to work claiming that he had been shot in the thigh with an umbrella. He was extremely ill and clinically it appeared that he had septicaemia. Within a day or two he was dead.

Georgi Markov

The story seemed altogether a little implausible but an astute radiologist spotted an opacity the size of a pinhead visible in a radiograph of the right thigh and was insistent that it should not be ignored. Despite what might have appeared to be the mad ravings of an extremely sick man, it eventually transpired that poor Georgi had almost certainly been poisoned with a tiny quantity of ricin.

The tiny bullet which killed Georgi.
Just half a milligram of ricin (about the size of a pinhead) can be fatal.

The name of the radiologist was Jean Dow. Unfortunately her astute observations did not help poor Georgi.

The orginal reports carried in The Times can be read here. And here you can find an interesting interview with Annabel Markov, Georgi's wife.

Dr Grumble is dismayed that, though the cold war is long over, these things still seem to be going on.


The Angry Medic said...

Ooh. Very CSI, Dr Grumble. Smacks of James Bond, too.

Old rivalries die hard. Give the blokes another decade or two to make up.

Assuming they don't start a nuclear war first, of course.

Anonymous said...

And to think that just a few weeks ago, I was moaning about the good old days when the Cold War was all we had to worry over.

Fascinating links.

Dr Grumble said...

Alexander Litvinenko turned out to have been poisoned with polonium but initially there were some commentators suggesting it might be thallium.