NICKOLAI GLUSHKOV MURDER: Kremlin critic believed to be killed by 'sleeper hold', inquest hears
A KREMLIN critic murdered just days after the Novichok attacks on Sergei and Julia Skripal is believed to have quickly incapacitated then killed by a martial arts sleeper hold before a hanging was staged at his home, an inquest heard today.
Senior Coroner Chinyere Inyama said there was unanimous agreement among pathologists who carried out post mortems on Nickolai Glushkov (pictured above), or peer reviewed them, that the Russian exile was attacked from behind and killed by strangulation before the scene was staged at his home in New Maldon, south London, on March 12 2018.
Mr Glushkov was a vocal critic of Vladimir Putin and also a close friend of oligarch Boris Berezovsky, another Kremlin critic, who was found hanged at his Berkshire home in 2013, although his inquest recorded an open verdict.
A sleeper choke hold is a dangerous technique which slows blood supply to the brain and causes the person being choked to pass out.
It normally only be done under the watch of a martial arts expert.
The murder was just eight days after the Novichok poisonings of Segei and Julia Skripal in Salisbury, with much speculation of Kremlin involvement as Mr Glushkov, 68, topped a list of Russians in the UK it wanted to extradite to serve jail time over a fraud conviction.
The alleged fraud concerned his time as deputy director of the Russian airline Aeroflot.
In 2017, during a trial in absentia, he was sentenced to eight years in a Russian prison, convicted of stealing £87 million from the airline.
Mr Glushkov had been due to appear at a commercial court hearing in London connected with the fraud case on the day he was found dead.
"Russian hangings" is a term given to strangulation murders believed to be carried out by the Russian security services that are staged to look like a suicide.
Yet, the inquest at West London Coroner’s Court heard no motive for Mr Glushkov's death has been established and no suspects have been identified more than three years on from his murder.
Mr Inyama read from a document produced by Mr Glushkov's daughter Natalia Glushkova (pictured above) that said she found the body after 10pm on Monday, March 12, 2018, after going to her father's home with his younger civil partner Dennis Trushin, 30, after they were concerned for his welfare.
She spoke to him the night before at 9pm when he had been fine, but she had expected him to call on Monday, but failed to.
She called him at 8.30pm and got no answer.
When they arrived at the home, the front door was locked and she let them in with a key.
They saw the body of Mr Glushkov in the hall next to an upright step ladder with a dog lead around his neck and red blood spots on his face.
His mobile phone was charging on a bedside table next to a watch and religious cross that he only removed when sleeping or showering.
Paramedic Dominic Biel was the first emergency worker on the scene at 10.40pm and he immediately felt it was suspicious due to the stepladder being upright as in a hanging suicide they usually have to be kicked over by the person.
He said the red paw-print dog lead was doubled up with a spring-loaded metal clip, which was also suspicious.
He confirmed Mr Glushkov was dead at the scene.
Mr Trushin was saying "someone has killed him, get the police," the court heard and Mr Biel agreed.
Toxicology results found low levels of alcohol and some prescription drugs and painkillers, but it was not felt these would have had a strong sedative effect.
The first post mortem examination found small fractures to the neck that would not have been caused by a hanging, but were more common with strangulation, that were caused at or around the time of death.
Pathologist Dr Olaf Biedrzycki's report read out by the coroner said bruising to the back of the neck indicated an "assailant behind the victim."
It added: "The lack of injuries of a defensive nature suggests the victim was rapidly incapciated. Sleeper holds are known to cause unconsciousness rapidly."
Investigators test for the use of chloroform, but there was no evidence of this.
There was a direct blow impact identified on the upper outer shin and three bruise impact points to the skull and a superficial laceration just above the right eye.
The report added: "I have no doubt that this man has died at the hands of a third party from compression to the neck with a staged hanging."
The coroner also read from a Met Police report on its murder investigation that said: "The neck fractures and bruises were not consistent with hanging.
MYSTERY: Black Volkswagen police want to trace (Met Police)
"A neck hold was used to rapidly subdue and then maintained until deceased.
"A sleeper hold requires significant degree of force that generate fracture and bruising in the neck."
The post mortem had been peer reviewed by other pathologists, with all agreeing that fatal pressure had been used and the scene staged.
The court heard a murder investigation was launched, but no suspects were identified on CCTV.
It involved contacting 537 of Mr Glushkov's current and historic associates.
Mr Inyama said: "Despite detailed enquiries no motive has been confirmed nor suspects identified as being responsible for his death."
Mr Inyama said Mr Glushkov died from compression to the neck and recorded a verdict that he was unlawfully killed.
Last night the Met Police made a renewed appeal for information about the killing of the father of two and confirmed it was still under investigation by its counter terrorism unit, indicating that Russian state involvement is still suspected.
A Met Police spokesman said: "A black Volkswagen van was seen in and around Clarence Avenue on the evening of Sunday 11 March 2018, the day before Mr Glushkov was found dead.
"Neither the vehicle nor the driver have been traced despite public appeals, and it remains an important line of enquiry for the investigation team."
Commander Richard Smith, head of the MPS Counter Terrorism Command (pictured above), said: “This has been a hugely complex, challenging investigation from the outset. Officers have taken hundreds of statements and collected a large amount of evidential material, but so far no arrests have been made.
“Three years have passed and we are again asking the public, particularly people who live in or visit the New Malden area, to cast their minds back to March 12 2018.
"Did you see a black Volkswagen van in or around Clarence Avenue that day?
"Did you see anything that in retrospect was unusual or suspicious? Anything you can recall might be crucial to our investigation.”
Police added that since the investigation was launched, detectives have contacted over 1,800 witnesses and taken more than 420 statements.
Officers have also viewed 2,200 hours of CCTV footage, and 1,200 exhibits - including forensic samples, as well as physical items - have been collected as part of the investigation.
No one has been interviewed under caution.
Anyone with information is asked to call 0800 789 321 quoting Operation Bulblet. Alternatively, call independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.