UK News

The two BA planes at Heathrow
The two BA planes at Heathrow

Spy Radiation Fears Grow

Updated: 15:32, Thursday November 30, 2006

Traces of radiation have been detected at 12 locations during a probe into the death of former Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Home Secretary John Reid revealed 24 unnamed locations have been or are currently being monitored by experts.

Low levels of radiation have already been found on two British Airways planes connected to the case and a third is being held in Moscow until it is safe to return.

Mr Reid said a fourth plane which flew into Heathrow from Moscow this morning had been looked at.

The Russian Boeing 737, which is leased by Transaero, was monitored by scientists and later given the all clear.

However, Mr Reid said a fifth plane – another Russian aircraft – is also of interest to the inquiry.

Mr Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive material
Mr Litvinenko was poisoned with radioactive material

BA had warned an estimated 33,000 passengers and 3,000 staff when “low levels of radioactive traces” were found on two of its aircraft at Heathrow which had flown between London and Moscow.

A spokesman said they were being examined because “individuals involved in the Litvinenko case” had travelled on them.

Some 2,500 passengers have since contacted a BA helpline since the detection of radiation was made public.

Meanwhile, Mr Reid said some 1,700 calls has been made to NHS direct since the radiation scare came to light and 69 people have been referred to the Health Protection Agency as a precaution.

Of the 29 people who have so far been tested, none have returned results of concern to medics. A further 18 have been referred to specialist clinics.

Two planes have been grounded at Heathrow
Two planes have been grounded at Heathrow

Mr Litvinenko – an ex-KGB man and fierce critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin – died last week of radiation poisoning after being exposed to polonium 210.

An inquest into his death has been opened at St Pancras Coroner’s Court, London and adjourned so police can continue their investigation.

After the brief hearing, the Russian’s friend Alexander Goldfarb said: “We still believe that this was a murder perpetrated by agents of the Russian intelligence service.

“I strongly suspect that the origin of this material is Moscow because the police are looking at the planes flying between London and Moscow.”

Mr Litvinenko – whose family have been tested for radiation and cleared – accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of being behind his poisoning.

The Kremlin has denied any responsibility but the new find puts the focus of the investigation firmly back in Moscow.

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