Don’t Cross Communism


Communist dissident killed with unique weapon

Georgi Markov was not a fan of the Communist Party.  In his home country of Bulgaria his career as a writer and playwright caught the attention of the Communist government in that country.

As Markov became more popular in Bulgarian literary circles, his writing took on a distinctive and concerning anti-communist slant.  Soon his more audacious writings were banned from publication. 

Markov felt, probably correctly, that the Bulgarian government was spying on him.  They certainly had made it quite clear that they did not appreciate, and would not tolerate his dissent.  In 1969, he felt that he had no choice but to flee his homeland.  He defected while on a trip to Italy and made his way to London.  Eventually getting a job at the BBC he continued to speak out against communist regimes including the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of Bulgaria. 

Sentenced in absentia to a six year prison term for defecting, Markov continued to fear for his life from Bulgarian authorities. 

On September 7, 1978, Markov was walking across Waterloo Bridge in London to get to his job at the BBC.  Crossing the bridge, he felt a sting on the back of his leg.  Turning around he observed a man pointing an umbrella at him and then waking away. 

When he arrived at work, he saw a small blister on his leg.  Thinking it was just a bug bite, he tried to ignore it.  But as the day went on the pain increased.  Soon he began running a fever, and worried that the suspicious incident on the bridge might have been a poisoning.  He was absolutely correct. 

Days later his family was planning his funeral.  Investigators and doctors looking into his untimely death.  Doctors removed the area of his leg where the “bite” mark was.  Inside the tissue sample they found a 1.7 millimeter ball.  The tiny ball was hollowed out and doctors surmised that the ball had contained ricin, a poison that leaves no trace and has no antidote. 

Investigators believed that the suspicious man on the Waterloo Bridge was a Communist agent who used a modified umbrella as a weapon system to deliver the ricin filled projectile.  Post-Soviet KGB agent interviews confirmed this hypothesis.  The Bulgarian Secret Police and the KGB were responsible for Markov’s death.  No arrests were ever made on the bizarre murder. 

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