Berezovsky was 'broken' man before death, inquest hears

26th March 2014, Comments 0 comments

Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky seemed a "broken" man after losing a costly legal battle against Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich and often talked of killing himself in the months before his death, his inquest heard Wednesday.

The 67-year-old, an outspoken critic of the Kremlin who was granted asylum in Britain, was discovered in March 2013 on the floor of the bathroom in his luxurious home outside London with a ligature around his neck.

Former employees told the inquest in Windsor, near the mansion in Ascot, that the tycoon had been depressed after losing a court battle in 2012 against fellow Russian oligarch Abramovich, the owner of English Premier League club Chelsea.

Bodyguard Avi Navama said that after Berezovsky lost his £3 billion ($4.7 billion, 3.6 billion euros) damages claim against Abramovich, the tycoon lamented that he was "not a billionaire" but "the poorest man in the world."

"He was always saying 'should I hang myself, where should I hang myself?'. All the possibilities about how to die, to drown himself, to cut his veins, to take tablets," Navama said.

"He said 'yes I know what is the best way, is to shoot myself, but there is no way in this country.'"

The tycoon had even discussed using a "steak knife" to end his life, the bodyguard said.

Personal assistant Michael Cotlick said that while there had been earlier attempts to assassinate Berezovsky, including a plot to kill him in Britain in 2007, he did not believe that there was any threat to his life from external forces at the time of his death.

"Unfortunately there is only one explanation: suicide," Cotlick told the inquest.

Berezovsky was a former Kremlin power broker who built up a huge fortune in the 1990s following the privatisation of state assets after the collapse of Soviet communism. He was granted political asylum in Britain in 2003.

But his wealth was fast diminishing.

His divorce from second wife Galina Besharova in 2011 was dubbed one of the costliest in Britain. Reports suggested the settlement was worth more than £100 million.

Shortly before he died, Berezovsky had also split up with his latest partner, Elena Gorbunova.

He also remained at odds with Russian President Vladimir Putin's government, despite reports that he had written to Putin shortly before his death to ask for forgiveness.

Berezovsky was a friend of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered with radioactive polonium in London in 2006, and had been due to testify at Litvinenko's own inquest.

- Tycoon was 'pale purple' -

Paramedic John Pocock, who was called to the scene of Berezovsky's death, said his personal radiation alarm had sounded when he was at the tycoon's house.

He said later investigations found no hazardous material at the property but he could not explain why the alert had gone off.

The paramedic said Berezovsky's death "looked to me like it was a hanging" and there was no sign of outside involvement.

Navama said that in the four months before his death, Berezovsky was "low most of the time".

On the day before he was found dead, "he looked at me with low tired eyes, like he doesn't know what to do".

On Saturday, March 23, he became worried at around 3:00pm because he had not seen Berezovsky all day, so he went to his bedroom.

He called the emergency services and then kicked down the locked door.

"I found Mr Boris lying on his back, his head was face up next to the toilet," Navama said.

"He was pale purple. He was cold, he was stiff."

After the police and paramedics arrived, the bodyguard and members of Berezovsky's family went back to the bathroom and noticed that he had a thin piece of material around his neck.

"We realised it was a piece of the scarf that he used to wear all the time," Navama said, adding that another piece of the scarf was on the shower curtain rail.

Asked by coroner Peter Bedford if he had any reason to believe someone else had killed Berezovsky, Navama replied: "No."

The two-day inquest is aimed at establishing the circumstances of his death, but will not apportion blame.

© 2014 AFP

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