London barman describes tea thought to have killed Litvinenko - Dagger and Cloak

Sunday, 15 July 2007

London barman describes tea thought to have killed Litvinenko

LONDON (Reuters) - A London hotel barman has described throwing away the remains of the tea believed to have killed former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died last year from radioactive polonium poisoning, a newspaper said on Sunday.

"When I poured the remains of the teapot into the sink, the tea looked more yellow than usual and was thicker -- it looked gooey," the Sunday Telegraph quoted barman Norberto Andrade as saying in what it called the first account by someone present.

"I scooped it out of the sink and threw it into the bin. I was so lucky I didn't put my fingers into my mouth or scratch my eye as I could have got the poison inside me."

Britain accuses former Russian state security agent Andre Lugovoy of poisoning Litvinenko with polonium at the Millennium Hotel last November and has threatened punitive steps following Moscow's refusal to extradite him.

Media have reported Litvinenko was poisoned with tea. Andrade said he thought the polonium had been sprayed into the teapot.

"There was contamination found on the picture above where Mr Litvinenko was sitting and all over the table, chair and floor so it must have been a spray," the paper quoted him as saying.

Police were not immediately available to comment on the report.

Britain and Russia appear set for confrontation over Litvinenko's murder with London saying it is reviewing cooperation across a range of issues after Moscow's "unacceptable" refusal to extradite Lugovoy. It could even expel diplomats, a move that could prompt swift retaliation.

Lugovoy denies the accusation and counters he thinks British secret services may be involved in the murder.

Interviewed by BBC Television on Sunday, Britain's new Foreign Secretary David Miliband refused to be drawn on what moves London might now be planning.

"A very serious crime was committed on the streets of London, " he said.

"We have a judicial process that must be seen through and I don't want to say anything more about that at the moment other than that we are considering seriously all of our options."

Alex Goldfarb, who co-authored a book about the case with Litvinenko's widow, said the appearance of the interview was significant because British authorities had earlier told witnesses to keep quiet.

"I think this (the interview) has been given the okay by the police and the crown prosecution service because they had been telling witnesses to keep their mouths shut," he told Reuters.

"This is significant because it means the police and prosecutors have given up hope of having a trial. This witness has information that would have been useful at a trial."

(Additional reporting by Christian Lowe in Moscow)

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