Fri, Feb 15, 2008 - Page 6 News List

Patarkatsishvili died of natural causes: UK police

AWAITING RESULTS Toxological tests could take several weeks, but no sign of foul play emerged in the postmortem of the Georgian opposition leader's body

AFP , LONDON

Georgian opposition leader Badri Patarkatsishvili died of natural causes, according to initial post mortem tests released by British police yesterday.

But Surrey police said extensive toxological tests will take place after the Georgian tycoon's death at his home south of London, and could take several weeks.

"Following initial inquiries and the postmortem carried out last night, Surrey Police can confirm that at this stage there is no indication that the sudden death of Badri Patarkatsishvili was from anything other than natural causes," they said in a statement.

Patarkatsishvili, who claimed there were plots to assassinate him, died late on Tuesday reportedly from heart failure, although he had not been reported to be in poor health.

Police said late on Wednesday that they had found no traces of radioactivity after forensics experts spent all day studying the scene at the tycoon's plush home south of London.

The case has triggered memories of the death by radioactive poisoning of Kremlin opponent Alexander Litvinenko in 2006, which plunged diplomatic ties between London and Moscow to a Cold War-type chill.

Patarkatsishvili, 52, accused of fomenting a coup in the ex-Soviet republic, collapsed and died at his plush mansion outside Leatherhead, a suburban commuter town southwest of London, police said.

The case was handed to a major crime investigation team because of its high-profile nature, a Surrey Police spokesman said.

The body was removed at the end of Wednesday and taken to the Royal Surrey County Hospital in Guildford, while police said they were attempting to trace Patarkatsishvili's movements over the past 48 hours.

Patarkatsishvili's family were told by his London doctor that recent medical tests did not show any signs of heart disease, according to Georgia's Mze television.

The flamboyant businessman, instantly recognizable by his big white moustache, was Georgia's richest man and a major force behind an opposition movement that took to the streets in Tbilisi last November, prompting a violent police crackdown.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili sent his condolences to Patarkatsishvili's family yesterday.

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