An Irish musician who drank from the same cup as poisoned ex-Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko has said he fells lucky to be alive.
Derek Conlon, originally from Glasnevin in Dublin, performed in the bar area of the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair, London, just an hour after it was the scene of the poisoning of Litvinenko, a pronounced critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, on November 1, 2006.
Litvinenko died 21 days later after it emerged he had been poisoned with Polonium-210, a rare and highly radioactive element.
A public inquiry into his death was conducted in the UK and its findings were published last week, including the claim Litvinenko was probably murdered on the personal orders of President Putin.
It also said two Russian agents, Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun, were behind the poisoning.
Mr Conlon yesterday revealed, even almost a decade after the incident, he still has to undergo medical tests every six months to ensure he did not suffer any long-term effects from exposure to radiation.
He was diagnosed with significant exposure to polonium, even though he was not in the bar at the time Litvinenko was poisoned.
“It was bad luck initially, or good luck, I don’t know,” he told the Ryan Tubridy RTÉ radio show.
The Dubliner said in the days after the incident no-one was quite sure what had happened, but the bar in the hotel was sealed off.
He found out later, than anyone who had been in the vicinity at the time, he had needed to go and undergo testing.
“I went along and got tested and found out I had one of the highest levels of radiation poisoning,” he said.
“I thought it was a joke initially, police told me initially it wasn’t airborne, it couldn’t go through paper.
“It turned out apparently the dishwasher was broken and I drank from the same cup that he [Litvinenko] had drank from.”
He said tests showed that significant traces of the radioactive element were found on his clothes, musical equipment, and PA system, and also back in his own home.
“We had science boffins with their white coats and geiger counters come in, that’s where I discovered about my clothes,” he said.
Mr Conlon, who has played music around the world and who recently recorded a new album, said these developments were “a shock”, but said even though exposure to Polonium-210 does increase the risk of contracting cancers, he had never shown any ill effects.
He said of the November 2006 incident: “It was a reckless act.
“I don’t even know these guys knew what they were doing when they did it.”
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