Ward's Book of Days.

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What happened on this day in history.


On this day in history in 1978, died George Markov.

Markov was a Bulgarian dissident who suffered a highly unusual death in London.

Markov worked as a novelist and playwright in his native Bulgaria until 1969, when he found political asylum in Britain. Markov worked for the BBC World Service where he broadcast to Bulgaria, commenting vituperatively on the communist regime of that state. It is suspected that Bulgarian spies, assisted by the KGB, made two failed attempts on his life, while he was living in London. They were more successful at their third effort.

On September 7th 1978, while on his way to work, Markov walked across Waterloo Bridge and took up his position in a bus queue, when he was jabbed in the leg by an umbrella wielded by a man with a foreign accent. The umbrella was in fact a subtly disguised pellet gun, which had discharged a fatal projectile. On arrival at the BBC offices, Markov noticed a small pimple on his calf where he was experiencing some minor pain. That evening, he developed a fever, and died four days later.

A post mortem examination revealed a platinum pellet embedded in his flesh, which contained a quantity of the deadly poison ricin, a castor-oil seed derivative, twice as deadly as cobra venom. In later years, several high profile KGB defectors confirmed that the KGB was responsible for the assassination. They had presented the Bulgarians with several alternative methods of execution, including a poisonous jelly to smear on the victimís skin. To date, no one has been charged with Markovís murder.

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