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
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
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).