One of the suspected murderers of poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko called a business associate days after he died to say "he had nothing to do" with the high-profile death.
Ex-KGB bodyguard Andrei Lugovoi called Tim Reilly, director at private security firm Erinys, from the British embassy in Moscow to protest his innocence before turning the conversation to business matters, a public inquiry into Mr Litvinenko's death heard.
Mr Reilly also told the hearing that he contracted a mystery illness around the same time he held meetings in October 2006 with Lugovoi in London, adding: "I've never had an illness like it before and I've never had it since."
Mr Litvinenko, who fled Russia to the UK in 2000, died on November 23 2006 just three weeks after he was poisoned by tea laced with radioactive substance polonium-210 in the company of Lugovoi and another Russian contact Dmitri Kovtun at a Mayfair hotel.
Atomic weapons experts later found "heaving" levels of radioactive contamination in the boardroom at Erinys's offices, where Lugovoi, Kovtun and Litvinenko had met Mr Reilly.
Mr Reilly, a former British Army officer with the Parachute Regiment, who speaks fluent Russian, told the inquiry that Lugovoi called days after Mr Litvinenko's death.
"Strangely enough after this all took place Mr Lugovoi called me from the British Embassy in Moscow essentially saying 'I had nothing to do with this'," Mr Reilly said.
Lugovoi went on to discuss visas and other business matters, Mr Reilly told the inquiry.
Mr Litvinenko had introduced Mr Reilly to Lugovoi as a Russian contact who may be able to broker a meeting with senior executives at Gazprom, the Russian gas giant with a view to discussing a security contract. They held a number of meetings including on October 16 2006.
Asked by counsel to the inquiry Hugh Davies QC if he fell ill around the time, Mr Reilly said: "It was in October, it was around the time of these meetings. Yes, I was very ill."
"I went home ... unusually for me I got home about 7.30pm and I went to bed. I had migraine symptoms. I threw up.
"I've never had an illness like it before and I've never had one since."
Asked how he reacted when he learned Mr Litvinenko, who was also working for British intelligence services at the time, had been poisoned, Mr Reilly said: "I was pretty stunned."
He said it struck him the "nature of the weapon" was of a "state asset" and its use in this case had been "clumsy".
"My conclusion from that weapon was that it was a signal on behalf of somebody, not necessarily just for poor Sasha and his family, but to a wider Russian community abroad."
The inquiry continues.
Murdered Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko was warned by former security service friends as early as 2002 that he had been “sentenced to extrajudicial elimination” and should “get his will ready”, the inquiry into his death heard.
The post-mortem examination of poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko was "one of the most dangerous ever undertaken in the western world", a pathologist has told the public inquiry into his death.