Russian whistleblower violently sick night before died: mistress

London (United Kingdom) (AFP) –


Russian whistleblower Alexander Perepilichny was violently sick in a luxury Paris hotel the night before his 2012 death in Britain in unexplained circumstances, his Ukranian mistress told a London court Wednesday.

The 44-year-old businessman had been helping investment firm Hermitage Capital Management, run by US arch-critic of the Kremlin Bill Browder, to probe a money-laundering operation.

He collapsed while jogging near his home in the wealthy town of Weybridge, part of London's commuter belt.

British MPs have asked the government to investigate a list of 14 Britons and Russians, including Perepilichny, whose deaths on UK soil in recent years have been deemed potentially suspicious.

The cases have come under particular scrutiny following a nerve agent attack in the city of Salisbury against former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Perepilichny's inquest at a London court heard that the married businessman spent his last two nights in Paris with Elmira Medynska, a Ukrainian former model who now runs her own fashion company.

Medynska, now 28, testified via videolink from the French capital that on the eve of his death they had dinner at the Buddha Bar, where Perepilichny complained about the food and sent at least one dish back.

"He said he did not like the taste. He was very irritated and mad about the quality of the food," she said, adding she thought the problem was with a prawn tempura order.

Medynska told the court Perepilichny appeared distracted in the bar, constantly looking around the crowded and noisy room.

They walked back to their hotel, the five-star Le Bristol, and Perepilichny went straight to the bathroom, where she heard him vomit three times.

The next morning, she said he was "looking very nice, good mood, smiling" as they went for an early breakfast.

Earlier in the trip, she said he had appeared "a little bit nervous".

At lunch, he did not eat but drank a lot of red wine, some of which he spilled on himself.

He had also eaten apples left in the hotel room, Medynska added.

The next day, she said Perepilichny seemed "in another planet", distracted by his phone.

However, they never discussed his work.

"He always had two telephones with him," she added.

"I would never hear any phone calls... when somebody called him he always stood up and left."

The pair made contact through a dating website in March 2012, meeting up first in Kiev and then in Nice, France.

They kept in touch via phone call, text message and emails, for which Perepilichny used different email addresses and even an alias, she said, adding she had not realised he was married.

When the pair first met in Ukraine, he changed hotels twice in two days, behaviour Medynska said she found "quite surprising".

Perepilichny died just hours after he returned home on November 10. Two post-mortems have proved inconclusive.

Medynska said she received a phone call two days later from a British number, where someone claiming to be from a hospital told her Perepilichny had been in a "car accident".

She only discovered he had died on New Year's Eve, when a friend asked about him and she googled his name.

She said she was "scared because I know nothing about this man."

Months later, she received an email from Perepilichny's email account telling her she would "die soon".

Asked if it could have been sent by Perepilichny's wife, she said: "Maybe."

Medynska told the court she was interviewed about the case by French police in July and again last month.

Perepilichny's life insurance company ordered tests on the body that it said detected a toxin in his stomach from a Chinese plant called Gelsemium, which can trigger cardiac arrest.

But at the hearing on Monday, Monique Symmonds, a botanist from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew told the court that she had not been able to identify any such plant toxins.