Bulgaria statue for Cold War 'umbrella killing' victim

11th November 2014, Comments 0 comments

Bulgaria's president inaugurated a statue of dissident Georgy Markov Tuesday in a rare official commemoration of the victim of the infamous Cold War "umbrella killing" in London in 1978.

"The words of Georgy Markov spiritually liberated the Bulgarians even before the toppling of the communist regime," President Rosen Plevneliev said at the unveiling of the bronze monument in a small public garden in Sofia close to where the writer lived.

Markov, a prominent journalist and playwright, fled communist Bulgaria in 1969 and lambasted the regime in a series of reports for the BBC and Radio Free Europe between 1975 and 1978 that many Bulgarians listened to in secret.

While waiting for a bus on London's Waterloo Bridge on September 7, 1978, he was jabbed in the leg by a passer-by.

He later told his family that he saw a man drop the umbrella.

Markov developed a high fever and died in hospital five days later at the age of 49 without being questioned by police.

An autopsy revealed a tiny metal pellet embedded in his thigh that could have contained ricin or some other powerful poison.

The stabbing -- on the 67th birthday of Bulgaria's communist dictator Todor Zhivkov -- went down in history as one of the most daring and extraordinary crimes of the Cold War.

His family firmly believed that his murder was ordered by Bulgaria's secret police and carried out with help from the Soviet KGB.

A Bulgarian investigation launched shortly after the fall of communism was closed last year without finding enough evidence to back their suspicions.

His British widow Annabel Markov, present at Tuesday's ceremony with around 200 others, talked of the writer's "deep connection to Bulgaria" during the last seven years of his life in London.

"Of course he could never go back, it was impossible then.

But sometimes he indulged in a fantasy.

how he would slip into Bulgaria without anyone knowing, just for 24 hours," she remembered.

"He said he even knew what he would order -- stuffed cabbage.

In a sense, Georgy has now returned to Bulgaria, not just for 24 hours but as a permanent part of the landscape of Sofia," she added.

© 2014 AFP

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