A Russian dissident was murdered in his own home and his death made to look like suicide, a coroner has ruled.
Nikolai Glushkov, a close friend of the deceased oligarch Boris Berezovsky, Mr Putin’s one-time fiercest rival, was found dead in the hall of his property in New Malden, south-west London, a week after Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent, and Yulia, his daughter, were poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury.
Glushkov, 68, the former deputy director of the state airline Aeroflot, said he feared he was on a Kremlin hit-list.
Paramedics who arrived at Glushkov’s home on March 12 2018 immediately raised concerns that he had been killed because of the way suicide paraphernalia appeared to be deliberately placed around the body.
A post-mortem examination concluded he died at the hands of a third party, due to compression of the neck”.
The pathology report read to the court said the injuries “could be consistent with a neck-hold, applied from behind, and the assailant being behind the victim.
“There is a lack of injuries to suggest prolonged grappling or restraint with the third party, and a lack of injuries of a defensive nature to the upper limbs.
“This would suggest the victim had been rapidly incapacitated – garroted sleeper holds are known to cause unconsciousness within seconds.”
Glushkov’s daughter, Natalia, told the inquest she and Denis Trushin, her father’s partner, arrived at his home at about 10pm after he had not being in touch for 24 hours.
She said: “I saw my father lying on the floor. I tried to find his pulse and check his breathing, but he was cold to the touch. His watch and religious cross were on the bedside table. He only ever removed his watch and cross when he went to sleep or to take a shower.”
A police report said the findings indicated “a staged scene was set up to simulate a case of suicidal hanging”.
Chinyere Inyama, senior coroner for west London, said: “From all the documentation, all the evidence gathered, Nikolai Glushkov died from an unlawful killing.”
Yesterday’s hearing coincided with a renewed appeal for information from the police who had conducted 500 interviews without identifying a suspect or a motive.
Glushkov, a father of two, fled Russia after being accused of fraud during his time at Aeroflot.
In 2017, during a trial in absentia, he was sentenced to eight years in prison after being convicted of stealing £87 million from the airline.
He was due to attend the commercial court in London to defend himself on March 12, the day his body was found.