Litvinenko inquest set for early 2013

Sarah Davidson

September 21, 2012

Litvinenko’s mysterious death from suspected radiation poisoning led to a chilling of British and Russian relations but almost had severe consequences for the mortgage market.

One of the key players at the time almost stepped into his radioactive shadow after sharing a night at the doomed former spy’s hotel.

Litvinenko became ill after his tea was poisoned. Two weeks later, police traced the likely point at which he consumed the polonium-210 to a teapot at the Millennium hotel.

Steve Atkins, then John Malone’s second in command at Premier Mortgage Service, stayed at London’s plush Millennium Hotel in Mayfair the day after Litvinenko was poisoned by the deadly radioactive polonium-210.

Atkins was among many in the industry staying in the Millennium hotel that night.

Nationwide subsidiary UCB Home Loans was hosting a table and paid for its guests to stay at the Millennium. Although most had a coffee or tea at the Millennium, Atkins was the only one to test positive for exposure to polonium-210 after drinking tea from a teapot.

Although the pot had been washed, when police traced Litvinenko’s final steps and tested the teapot for polonium-210 they found its radioactivity to be off the scale.

Polonium-210 is an alpha emitter that has a half-life of 138.376 days. In the body it has a biological half-life of 30 to 50 days.

Fortunately Atkins’ exposure to the radioactive agent was equivalent to the amount of radiation a normal person would absorb over the course of the year, but in a single dose. He was quickly given the all clear and eventually left the mortgage market in August 2007to pursue other opportunities.

John Malone, executive chairman of PMS, said: “It’s hard to believe that was six years ago. I recall the time well though as we all had a fright for a moment. Steve is a cracking bloke and to think him and others in the market could have been subjected to this terrible poison was a horrible thought. We’ve not heard from him for a while but wherever he is we wish him well.”

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