May 18 2013 Latest news:
by Stephen Moore
Thursday, August 9, 2012
A High Court judge will hold a pre-inquest review into the death of Russian spy and former Muswell Hill resident Alexander Litvinenko next month, officials said today.
Former KGB agent Mr Litvinenko, 43, who lived with his wife Marina in Osier Crescent, was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 while drinking tea at a meeting at the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square, central London, in November 2006.
He died later that month. He had allegedly met two Russians at the hotel - former KGB contacts Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun.
Today, High Court Judge Sir Robert Owen was appointed as an Assistant Deputy Coroner and will hold a pre-inquest review in public on September 20, the Judicial Communications Office (JCO) said.
Sir Robert will give “directions as to the conduct of the inquest” at the hearing, the JCO spokeswoman said.
Prosecutors named Lugovoy as the main suspect but he was later elected as a Russian MP, and a diplomatic rift developed with Moscow which refused to send him to the UK for questioning.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said the issue - which he has discussed with President Vladimir Putin - still stands between Britain and Russia.
St Pancras coroner Dr Andrew Reid, who is currently suspended but presided over earlier inquest hearings, said the former KGB agent’s inquest should have a broad scope and that the Metropolitan Police and intelligence agencies MI5 and MI6 should conduct further inquiries.
Meanwhile, Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has written to Dr Shirley Radcliffe, the deputy Inner North London coroner, asking for cuts in the estimated £4million bill of the inquest.
Mr Clarke wrote the letter after it was agreed that central government would cover the bill, and not the four local boroughs that constitute the court’s jurisdiction.
He said the government was watching the purse strings and asked for a more “refined” estimate of costs.
While he accepted the proposed costs were the worst-case scenario, he insisted the government was under “severe financial constraints”.
Without government help, the inquest costs would have been shared between Camden, Islington, Hackney and Tower Hamlets councils.