Sunday 19 November 2017

‘I’m lucky to be alive’ - Irishman who drank from the same cup as poisoned KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko

Target: Alexander Litvinenko in hospital in November 2006 Photo: REUTERS/Handout
Target: Alexander Litvinenko in hospital in November 2006 Photo: REUTERS/Handout

An Irish musician who was in the same bar where Alexander Litvinenko was given a fatal dose of poisoning by polonium in November 2006 has revealed that he's lucky to be alive.

Derek Conlon got radiation poisoning after drinking from the same teacup as the murdered former KGB man.

Piano player Mr Conlon was playing piano in the London bar an hour after the former Russian agent Litvinenko was slipped the dose of polonium in November 2006.

Speaking on The Ryan Tubridy Show this morning, Mr Conlon, who is originally from Glasnevin, revealed how he was “completely contaminated by the incident.”

“Litvinenko was there an hour before I started playing that particular evening. Nobody suspected anything until a day or two later when they sealed the bar off. I arrived there to go to work and was told I couldn’t get in until the following week. When a week had passed, I heard on the news that there was testing going on  for polonium.”

A form of nuclear material only found at Russian nuclear facilities, polonium is fatal when administered in small quantities. However, Mr Conlon was originally told he wasn’t at risk as it wasn’t airborne or couldn’t pass through paper.

“Apparently the dishwasher was broken and I drank from the same cup as Litvinenko. It had spread over the whole bar and the whole place was contaminated.

“The entire bar was contaminated. It had to be gutted and restructured. Even my microphone was covered in polonium. It was everywhere. It was a reckless act. These guys took so many lives in danger. It is insane what they did.”

On his deathbed, Litvinenko accused Russian president Vladimir Putin of ordering his assassination. Last week an inquiry said that Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘probably’ approved poisoning of the former KGB agent.

Mr Conlon said he only became aware of the seriousness of the incident when he arrived for work a couple of days later and saw that the entire bar had been shut down.

Although Mr Conlon said he hasn’t yet developed any symptoms, he still undergoes check-ups every six months.

“It has really increased my chances of catching certain cancers. What happens with polonium is that it does a lot of damage when it originally attacks your body and then it leaves. But over the space of years – depending on the dosage – you can see the initial damage. So now I am tested over six month periods.

“If you catch a cold or a spot turns up somewhere on your body, you are very cautious about it. You can become paranoid about it. Hopefully nothing will come of it.

Although he said he often thinks about the incident, Mr Conlon considers himself ‘lucky to be alive’.

“Now I try and live life in the fast and I appreciate things more. I try and live for the moment and not worry about the small stuff.”

Online Editors

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