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The Poisonous Umbrella and the Assassination of Georgi Markov!

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posted on Jul, 19 2010 @ 09:37 AM
Georgi Markov

On 7 September 1978 Georgi Markov –an acclaimed Bulgarian dissident and writer living in London– walked across the Waterloo Bridge and waited for a bus to take him to his job at the BBC. He felt a sharp sting in his right thigh and whirled around to see a man picking up an umbrella from the ground. The man mumbled “I’m sorry” in a foreign accent and hailed a cab. Four days later, Markov was dead. Killed by a poisonous umbrella.

An example of a "poisonous umbrella." From PBS, "Secrets of the Dead."

Markov’s assassination may be the most “Bond-like” episode of the entire Cold War. But to chalk up the bizarre killing up as “just another Cold War hi-jinx” is inadequate. Markov’s murder epitomized the Eastern Bloc’s inability to stomach dissent. The totalitarian system –in this case Todor Zhivkov’s Bulgaria, with help from the Soviet KGB– eliminated Markov just as it had the millions of dissenters before him.

Markov’s end was the same as his predecessors, but the means of his assassin were quite different. A month before his death, Markov received a phone call informing him that he would “die of natural causes, killed by a poison the West could not detect or treat.” His dangerous ideas would be extinguished when he died a “natural,” quiet, unremarkable death.

Bulgarians refuse to give up on the story. As they continue their dog-eared pursuit of the truth Bulgarian journalists and historians –using Bulgaria’s effective access to information law (see page 53)– have unearthed a trove of documents exposing and explaining the umbrella assassination.

Foremost among these journalists is Hristo Hristov. He searched the Bulgarian archives and found these documents –in Bulgarian and Russian– related to Markov’s assassination

The Device Used:

The assassin’s nondescript umbrella used a canister of compressed air to fire its poison pellet.

The ricin pellet.

The pellet was originally found when a doctor cut a chunk of skin from Markov’s thigh and began slicing it. It was the size of a pinhead (1.52 millimeters) and was constructed from an alloy of platinum and iridium. This alloy was chosen because would not cause an immune rejection. It had two tiny holes bored into it which could only have been done using a laser. Inside these holes was about a fifth of a milligram of poison. It was likely sealed inside by wax –which melted when it was warmed by Markov’s body heat, released the poison, and killed him.

The poison which killed Markov was ricin, a deadly derivative of the caster bean. (Breaking Bad fans will remember that ricin played a key role early in season two.) Ricin kills with a slow and painful death. Markov succumbed to a fever as the ricin irreparably damaged his lymph nodes and caused hemorrhaging in his internal organs. Finally, four days later, Markov’s kidneys and heart failed.

“22.V.79 killed in England.”

Markov was not the only Bulgarian dissident targeted for assassination. A document listing Markov and other dissident “enemies” gives further insight. It names another Bulgarian dissident journalist, Vladimir Kostov. Kostov was the victim of a similar, but unsuccessful attack, in the Paris metro. Kostov and Markov had identical poisonous pellets inside of them.

The Assassin: Agent Piccadilly

His name is Francesco Gullino

There were several investigations into Markov’s death, but none have brought Markov’s killer to justice. According to Hristov’s research, the killer was codenamed Agent Piccadilly.

Agent Piccadilly was a Dane who had worked Bulgarian Intelligence since 1971. In 1977 and 1978 he made three trips to London; he was in London at the time of Markov’s assassination, and left the day after. Piccadilly was awarded medals for his service, and now lives freely in Europe.

In 1993, former KGB General Oleg Kalugin stated he was present at the meeting where Markov’s killing was planned. Kalugin said that the order to assassinate Markov came from the leader of Bulgarian Communist party, Tidor Zhivkov who wanted to silence his leading critic. The seventh of September –the day Markov was shot by the poisonous umbrella– was also Zhivkov’s birthday.


I came across this story today and it brought back some memories. I remember hearing an old history teacher talking to another about this (when it was discovered what killer him) and thinking to myself that the Communist meant business and they were serious.

Makes you wonder what they-the Gov't-will do to it's own people!!!! I bet you he is just one of millions killed during that era of time-the time of Eastern Europe and Russian Communism.

Anyway, the balls to pull this off must have been large. Killing/Assinating one in another country.

I have to say, in hind sight-this method seems pretty crude but effective. Wonder what they are using/designing now-a-days?

MODS: I put this in the area to demostrate how both Russia and it's allies conspired for our (the West) fall and/or take over. And to the extreme lenghts they did go to protect what they believed to be right (crazy as it sounds).

posted on Jul, 19 2010 @ 09:54 AM
reply to post by anon72

You're not going to believe this but (after a couple of days of research) I have literally just sat down to write a thread called 'Georgi Markov and The Umbrella Assassin'

Seeing as you have done all of the work for me I shall just post this great documentary instead...

This was not even the first attempt on his life - source.

Francesco Gullino was just a lackey - the real evil behind these attacks were the military officials such as General Vladimir Todorov, the former Bulgarian intelligence chief. They are the ones with blood on their hands.

Sadly I can't see this case ever being solved, and by solved I mean somebody being brought to justice. What the Bulgarian Secret Service did back then was awful and considering they are the only ones with the real evidence I can't see them releasing it any time soon.

Fascinating story, great thread

posted on Jul, 19 2010 @ 10:20 AM
Thanks to the OP for this "blast from the past." There was an episode of "Secrets of the Dead" (which has more swing than calling the series "Archaeology Today") that dealt with this incident. They sent a camera crew to the Bulgarian police official who is currently working on this case. His office was crammed with cardboard boxes full of documents and he mournfully explained "I'm working as fast as I can." The current bizarre assassination tool of choice seems to be radioactive polonium, administered orally by sushi. Oh, those whacky wet-workers!

posted on Jul, 19 2010 @ 10:22 AM
I've read and heard that the Bulgarian Secret Service was the one to carry out the majority of the "wet" work. Supposedly the Russian KGB themselves would turn over assassinations and the like to the Bulgarians because they were very good at those sorts of things.

posted on Jul, 19 2010 @ 11:00 AM
Excellant thread. I heard about this a few years back. Its pretty crazy how little of ricin it takes to kill someone. I read it was about the same size of a grain of sand can kill you, the crazy thing is castor beans, what its made of, one plant yields about 16lbs of this sutff. Crazy stuff.

posted on Jul, 19 2010 @ 11:51 AM
reply to post by LiveForever8

Francesco Gullino was just a lackey

Are you saying he DIDN'T do the actual act of putting the pellet into Markov?

Which I could believe since he is still allowed to run around Europe as a freeman.

posted on Jul, 19 2010 @ 12:16 PM
reply to post by anon72

Not exactly.

What I meant is that the real villains are the Bulgarian/Communist elite who ordered the death of Markov.

Summed up by Nikola Markov...

For Markov's brother, Nikola Markov, finding the truth about Georgi's murder is no longer personal, he says, "My brother's murder is not a criminal case, but a political case," He further continued to say, "I'm not looking for the killer, but the person who ordered and organized it. And who was guilty? The system. I want to show the world what the communist system really was." -

Having said that, there is no definitive proof that Gullino was the agent involved in the assassination. Gullino was a petty criminal/smuggler who the Durzhavna Sigornost (the Bulgarian equivalent of the KGB) blackmailed into working for them, something Gullino did quite willingly.

Records show that while working for the DS Gullino actually did very little - and he certainly doesn't seem to be the obvious man for the job of Markovs assassination.

Also, in 1993 he was interrogated in Copenhagen for six hours by British and Danish detectives after a tip-off linking him to the Umbrella Murder case. He was freed because of a lack of evidence and hasn't been contacted since.

posted on Jul, 19 2010 @ 01:56 PM
reply to post by LiveForever8

You Sir-are on it! Great info. STARS for you.

Very interesting case but to call it a political one (yes, I understand why) but, it is still criminal.

The brother does make an excellent point about finding out who ordered and organized the hit is just as or more important.

THANK YOU for your input!!!

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