Page last updated at 03:24 GMT, Friday, 20 June 2008 04:24 UK

Detectives pursue Markov killer

Georgi Markov
Georgi Markov had provided scathing accounts of life in communist Bulgaria

Detectives have visited Bulgaria twice this year to investigate the murder of Georgi Markov in London nearly 30 years ago, Scotland Yard has confirmed.

Mr Markov, a communist defector working for the BBC, is thought to have been stabbed with the poisoned tip of an umbrella on Waterloo Bridge in 1978.

The assassin was never found, although the KGB and Bulgarian secret police were suspected of involvement.

Scotland Yard said the inquiry in the "complex investigation" remained open.

A team of Metropolitan Police officers travelled to Bulgaria in April 2007, followed by another visit in March this year and again last month to pursue leads.

Dnevnik, a Bulgarian newspaper, reported that Scotland Yard had requested access to archived files and permission to interview about 40 witnesses, including communist-era secret police officers.

It said the detectives' activity was triggered by the fact that under Bulgarian law the 30-year statute of limitation in the case will expire in September.

We continue to work with the appropriate authorities to investigate any new information

Scotland Yard spokeswoman

The paper also reported that the case could help police to investigate the poisoning of former Russian secret agent Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said: "We continue to work with the appropriate authorities to investigate any new information that is passed or made available to police."

She would not confirm how many people were interviewed, or whether the authorities in Bulgaria had supplied investigators with new documents.

However, the spokeswoman said officers periodically reviewed the case and had previously been given access to Bulgarian investigators' files.

Mr Markov, who worked for the BBC World Service, left his office at Bush House on 11 September 1978, and walked across Waterloo Bridge to take the train back to Clapham, south London.

However, moments into his journey home, he felt a sharp jab in his thigh and saw a man picking up an umbrella.

Failed assassinations

He died three days later after developing a high temperature.

A post-mortem examination established that he had been killed by a tiny pellet containing a 0.2mg dose of the lethal poison ricin.

Mr Markov, who as a playwright and satirist had broadcast scathing accounts of communist high life to Bulgaria, had been the subject of two failed assassination attempts before he was finally killed.

Efforts have been made to reveal the chain of command which led to the order for him to be murdered.

In June 1992 a former intelligence chief, General Vladimir Todorov, was jailed for 16 months for destroying 10 volumes of material.

And a second suspect, General Stoyan Savov, the deputy interior minister, committed suicide rather than face trial for destroying the files.

Meanwhile, Vasil Kotsev, a Bulgarian spy widely believed to have been the operational commander of the assassination plot, died in an unexplained car accident.

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