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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 July, 2005, 21:59 GMT 22:59 UK
Hitmen killed Israeli, court told
Simon Turkov, aka Yermia Yunataev
Simon Turkov had absconded from an Israeli prison
An Israeli drug dealer with a gambling problem, who was found dead in a London hotel in March, was murdered by two hitmen, the Old Bailey has heard.

Michael Antoneli and Andrei Melnikov allegedly lured Simon Turkov to the Marriott Hotel in Marble Arch before smothering him with a pillow.

The men, who were arrested in July last year, both deny murder.

The court heard a driver saw two men disposing of evidence at a service station near Gillingham, Kent.

DNA clue

Richard Whittam, prosecuting, told the jury: "It is only... because of the vigilance of a member of the public who witnessed the disposal of evidence which allowed police to detect the murder of Mr Turkov far earlier than they would have done."

The court heard that Mr Turkov was married with a family in Poole, Dorset, but lived with a Russian mistress in London's Belgravia.

He was a heavy gambler and lost about 200,000 between September 2003 and March 2004, the court heard.

He is likely to have died from manual asphyxiation and there was DNA matching that of Mr Turkov on the pillow
Richard Whittam, prosecutor

On 28 March 2004 Mr Antoneli, 52, and Mr Melnikov, 32, are said to have checked into the Marriott Hotel in Marble Arch after arriving in Dover on a ferry from Calais.

Mr Melnikov is then said to have walked outside to a nearby phone box and called Mr Turkov's mobile phone.

Mr Turkov then turned up in a taxi looking "anxious" and "agitated", according to the taxi driver.

Mr Melnikov and Mr Turkov were captured on CCTV embracing in the hotel lobby and drinking coffee and whiskey before going up to the room, the court heard.

While inside Mr Melnikov and Mr Antoneli are said to have wrapped duct tape around Mr Turkov's ankles and suffocated him with a pillow.

They then took his blood-stained jeans, Versace belt and jacket from him and left his body in the bath, it is claimed.

Mr Whittam said: "A pathologist later identified marks on the ankles consistent with tape on the outside of the jeans constraining him.

"He had not died of natural causes. He is likely to have died from manual asphyxiation and there was DNA matching that of Mr Turkov on the pillow."

Marigold gloves

Mr Melnikov and Mr Antoneli left the hotel separately but are said to have driven back to Dover together in a Mercedes.

They were seen dumping evidence by motorist Michael Runter as he washed his car at the Tollgate service station near Gillingham, jurors heard.

Mr Whittam said: "The front passenger got out of the vehicle and what drew Mr Runter's attention was he appeared to be wearing some yellow Marigold gloves."

"He opened the boot and one door and took out a yellow carrier bag and walked over to a rubbish bin."

Mr Melnikov is said to have dumped Mr Turkov's bloodstained clothes in the bin, along with other items from the hotel room, including the swipe card for the door.

Mr Runter found the items inside the wheelie bin and called police, who took the door card back to the hotel room and discovered Mr Turkov's dead body in the bath.

Mr Melnikov and Mr Antoneli are said to have got a ferry back to Calais that day.

Mr Melnikov, who has an Israeli passport, was arrested in Tel Aviv on 29 July 2004 while Mr Antoneli, who has Israeli and Greek passports, was arrested in Belgium on the same day.

The trial continues.

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