A Russian man critical of the Kremlin was strangled in his own home by a third party, a coroner has ruled, after evidence suggested his death was made to look like suicide.
Father-of-two Nikolay Glushkov was found dead in the hallway of his home in New Malden, south-west London, a week after former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were poisoned with nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury.
Paramedics arriving at Mr Glushkov’s home on March 12 2018 immediately raised concerns that he had been killed because of the way suicide paraphernalia appeared to be deliberately placed.
A post-mortem examination report concluded Mr Glushkov, 68, “died at the hands of a third party, due to compression of the neck, followed by the staging of a scene”.
West London senior coroner Chinyere Inyama gave a medical cause of death as compression to the neck.
Recording a conclusion of unlawful killing, he said: “From all the documentation, all the evidence gathered, Nikolai Glushkov died from an unlawful killing.”
In her statement to the inquest, Mr Glushkov’s daughter Natalia Glushkova said she and her father’s partner Denis Trushin turned up at his home at around 10pm after he failed to get in touch with her since the previous evening.
She said: “I saw my father lying on the floor.
“I tried to find his pulse and check his breathing, but he was cold to the touch.
“His watch and religious cross were on the bedside table.
“He only ever removed his watch and cross when he went to sleep or to take a shower.”
Paramedic Dominic Biel described the scene as “suspicious” and recalled how Mr Trushin said: “Don’t touch anything until the police come here – someone’s killed him.”
A pathology report summarised to the court said the injuries “could be consistent with a neck-hold, applied from behind, and the assailant being behind the victim”.
It added: “There is a lack of injuries to suggest prolonged grappling or restraint with the third party, and a lack of injuries of a defensive nature to the upper limbs.
“This would suggest the victim had been rapidly incapacitated – garroted sleeper holds are known to cause unconsciousness within seconds.”
It added: “I have no doubt this man died at the hands of a third party.”
A police report, also summarised at the hearing, said the findings “indicated that the deceased had fatal pressure applied to his neck, and a staged scene was set up to simulate a case of suicidal hanging”.
The inquest heard the bruising to the victim’s neck “was not explained by the ligature mark”.
Friday’s hearing coincided with a renewed appeal by Metropolitan Police counter-terror officers for information about the death, which the inquest heard resulted in more than 500 interviews being conducted, but no suspects had been identified nor a possible motive found.
Detectives said they were particularly keen to hear from residents near Clarence Avenue, where Mr Glushkov lived for two years before his death, following sightings of a black van in the area at the time.
Mr Glushkov fled Russia after being accused of fraud during 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.
He was due to attend the commercial court in London to defend himself on March 12, the day his body was discovered.
Mr Glushkov was also a close friend of Vladimir Putin critic Boris Berezovsky, the oligarch who was found hanged at his Berkshire home in 2013.
Mr Glushkov’s daughter observed Friday’s short hearing via video link.