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Litvinenko inquest: Government gags police report of secret service links with Russian spy

11:22 21 September 2012

Poisoned former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in hospital before his death in 2006

Poisoned former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in hospital before his death in 2006

Archant

Parts of a police report on whether Muswell Hill’s murdered Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko had contact with the British intelligence service before he died will be kept secret at the government’s request.

Marina Litvinenko's lawyer said she hoped the inquest would ascertain whether 'state-sponsored nuclear terrorism' had taken place in London.Marina Litvinenko's lawyer said she hoped the inquest would ascertain whether 'state-sponsored nuclear terrorism' had taken place in London.

The Metropolitan Police investigated whether Mr Litvinenko was in touch with MI6 prior to his death in November 2006, a pre-inquest review hearing was told yesterday.

Counsel for the inquest Hugh Davies said the contents of the police report are known to his team and to the coroner, Sir Robert Owen.

However, they will not be disclosed to the other interested parties represented at the inquest, at the request of the government.

Mr Davies said: “Claims have been made to the effect that Mr Litvinenko had contact with British intelligence service prior to his death. As part of its investigation, the Metropolitan Police Service made an inquiry into these claims.”

Sir Robert Owen will preside over the inquest next year.Sir Robert Owen will preside over the inquest next year.

He said the response to the Met’s enquiries “has been redacted from the report” at the request of the government, adding: “This redaction, of course, should not be taken as indicating one way or the other whether Mr Litvinenko did indeed have any such contact.”

The police report, with redactions made, is expected to be handed to interested parties within a fortnight.

Mr Litvinenko, 43, was poisoned with polonium-210 while drinking tea at a meeting, allegedly with two Russians - former KGB contacts Andrei Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun - at the Millennium Hotel in Grosvenor Square, central London.

Low levels of radioactivity were found in his home in Osier Crescent, Muswell Hill, but the area has long been declared safe.

At the pre-inquest review, held to thrash out how the inquest itself will be conducted, Sir Robert said the six-year delay in getting to this point was “regrettable”, adding: “There will be no further delay.”

He said the inquest itself would begin as early in 2013 as possible. Mr Litvinenko is survived by his widow Marina and son Anatoli.

Ben Emmerson QC, for Mrs Litvinenko, said she is “keen that the significance of all the evidence, including that which is redacted,” is fairly and independently evaluated “and that as much as is possible should be made public” in the interests of a “credible” and “complete inquiry”.

He said the spy’s widow wants to know whether her husband’s death was “a targeted assassination of a British citizen committed by agents of a foreign state in the sovereign territory of the United Kingdom”.

If this were proved to be the case, it would amount to “state-sponsored nuclear terrorism on the streets of London”, he said.

Speaking outside the hearing, Mrs Litvinenko said she is confident she will “get justice”.

She said: “I believe we will get justice in Britain. Any truth is very important for all of us, my friends, my family and the public.

“It was a British citizen killed here, a British soul, a killing that had never happened before.

“I’m not a politician, I’m a woman who lost her husband and I want to know what happened.”

Further preparatory hearings for the inquest are slated for November 2 and December 13 and 14.

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