30/11/2006

Radiation found in 12 locations in Litvinenko investigation

Traces of a radioactive substance have been found in 12 locations as the investigation into the death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko continues.

Speaking in the Commons, Home Secretary John Reid revealed that 24 locations are being monitored.

Earlier, it was revealed that "very low" traces of a radioactive substance had been found on two British Airways short-haul 767 aircraft, which had been tested at Heathrow airport. A third plane, also a 767, which is currently in Moscow is also due to be tested.

Mr Reid told Parliament that a fourth plane - a Russian Boeing 737 which flew into Heathrow from Moscow on Thursday morning - had also been examined, but no traces of any radioactive substance had been found.

A fifth plane, also believed to be a Russian aircraft, is also of interest to the inquiry, Mr Reid said, but no further details have been released.

All the planes have been withdrawn from service until further notice. The health risk to the public is thought to be low, but BA is in the process of contacting customers who travelled on the planes.

BA Chief Executive Willie Walsh said that up to 33,000 passengers would have flown on the three aircraft between October 25 and November 29. He also said that 221 European flights were potentially affected and they are listed on BA's website.

As well as flights between London and Moscow, other flights that are potentially affected include flights between London and Barcelona, Dusseldorf, Athens, Stockholm, Istanbul, Frankfurt and Madrid.

Mr Litvinenko, 43, died last week in hospital after falling ill earlier in the month. A major dose of the radioactive substance polonium 210 was discovered in his body.

Counter-terrorism officers from Scotland Yard are investigating the death, which they have described as "suspicious".

Traces of the substance have been found at several locations in London, including Mr Litvinenko's home in Muswell Hill, north London, the Itsu sushi restaurant in Piccadilly, where he had a meeting with a contact on November 1 - the day he fell ill - and the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square, where he also held a meeting on the same day.

Police have not revealed why the planes have been tested, but it is understood that they are tracing the movements of people associated with Mr Litvinenko.

According to reports, Andrei Lugovoi, who met with Mr Litvinenko on the day he fell ill, told a Russian newspaper that he had returned to Moscow on one of the contaminated aircraft on November 3. He has denied any involvement in his death.

On Wednesday, it was revealed that Italian Mario Scaramella, who met with Mr Litvinenko at the Itsu sushi bar on November 1, has been given the all clear after being tested for radiation poisoning. He said that he was co-operating with police and was not under investigation. He has also denied any involvement in the Russian's death and earlier revealed that he had discussed email death threats that both men had received with Mr Litvinenko at the meeting.

The Health Protection Agency has asked for anyone who visited the same places as Mr Litvinenko on the day who fell ill or who had any contact with him to contact NHS Direct. Around 1,700 people are understood to have contacted NHS Direct so far and 69 have been referred to the Health Protection Agency as a precaution. A further 18 have been referred to a specialist clinic.

On Wednesday, it was revealed that 160 workers at the two hospitals were Mr Litvinenko was treated - University College Hospital and Barnet General Hospital - have been assessed to see if they were at risk of possible contamination. Forty-nine staff have been asked to provide urine samples for testing.

Before his death, Mr Litvinenko had accused Mr Putin of being behind the poisoning - an allegation denied by the Kremlin and Russia's foreign intelligence service, the SVR, also denied any involvement.

An inquest into Mr Litvinenko's death was opened and adjourned in London on Thursday, so that police can continue with the investigation. An autopsy is due to be conducted on the Russian's body on Friday.

In other news, there has been growing concern that former Russian Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar may have poisoned, after he fell ill during a trip to Dublin last week.

Mr Gaidar is currently being treated in a hospital in Moscow where he is described as being in a stable condition. He fell ill while attending a conference in Dublin last Friday, reportedly losing consciousness for three hours and vomiting blood. The precise cause of his illness is not yet known.

Anyone with any concerns regarding the BA flights should contact: 0845 6040171 (0191 211 3690 for international calls).

(KMcA)

Related UK National News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

08 July 2008
Brown's Stance Praised By Litvinenko Widow
The widow of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko has commended Prime Minister Gordon Brown for "standing firm" on his demand for the extradition of the main suspect in the assassination of the defector. Marina Litvinenko welcomed Mr Brown's continued "firm" calls for the extradition of Andrei Lugovoi, two years after Mr Litvinenko's poisoning.
31 January 2007
Litvinenko file handed to CPS
Scotland Yard has handed a file on the investigation into the death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko to the Crown Prosecution Service. Mr Litvinenko, 43, died in hospital in London in November last year, after falling ill earlier that month.
01 December 2006
Mystery surrounds former Russian Prime Minister's illness
A former Russian acting Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar is being treated in hospital following what may be some form of poisoning. Mr Gaidar, who was premiere for a time under the Boris Yeltsin regime, fell ill during a visit to Dublin last week and was treated at a Dublin hospital before being moved to Russia.
24 November 2006
Radiation tests conducted following Russian's death
Police investigating the death of former KGB colonel Alexander Litvinenko are searching for various locations for radioactive material, after a large dose of radiation was found in his body. Following his death, a "major dose" of polonium-210 was discovered in his body, the Health Protection Agency revealed.
23 May 2007
Talks continue over Litvinenko murder
Diplomatic negotiations are continuing between the UK and Russia in an attempt to secure the extradition of a former KGB officer accused of the murder of Alexander Litvinenko. On Tuesday, the Crown Prosecution Service announced that it has enough evidence to charge Andrey Lugovoy with the murder of Mr Litvinenko.