Spymania: Was Litvinenko poisoned twice?

Actually, this makes sense. Sort of.

Investigators initially believed Mr Litvinenko was first poisoned at the Itsu sushi bar in Piccadilly, central London, when he met Mario Scaramella, an Italian espionage expert, for lunch on 1 November. The Japanese restaurant was the first place that traces of polonium were detected.

But detectives are understood to be investigating whether Mr Litvinenko was poisoned several days earlier. They are examining his movements and meetings, particularly with Russian contacts, in the previous days.

Toxicology results from Mr Litvinenko’s post-mortem examination revealed two “spikes” of radiation poisoning, suggesting he received two separate doses. The second attack is almost certain to have taken place at the Pine Bar of the Millennium Hotel in Mayfair. Eight hotel staff have tested positive for polonium-210. So has a tea cup.

Investigators already suspected that he might have been poisoned in mid-October, when he first met Lugovoy and Kovtun. The three of them visited the offices of Risc Management at the time; traces of polonium were found there later. But how could he have absorbed such a massive dose — ten times the amount needed to kill a man, according to UK cops — and remained in good health for another 18 days? Answer: he didn’t. They probably gave him a small dose on the first attempt in hopes that medical examiners wouldn’t be able to detect it. Trouble was, it ended up being too small to kill him. So they met him again on November 1 at the bar and gave him a massive dose to make sure it would do the job. And it did, but too well.

This would also settle the question of whether he met Scaramella at the sushi place before or after he met Lugovoy and Kovtun at the bar. It must have been after; the massive dose was probably so massive that the stray particles on his clothes or skin were enough to contaminate his table at lunch.

It was also, in all likelihood, ordered by the Russian government. Otherwise, why would they refuse to extradite suspects or let British cops reinterview them?

60 Minutes is doing a story tonight that will showcase the theory that Litvinenko was targeted for threatening to blackmail an unnamed Russian businessman. Seems unlikely to me unless that businessman is pals with Putin, but oh well. Meanwhile, one nagging question remains: If the first poisoning failed, why would Lugovoy and Kovtun have tried another dose of polonium — worth millions of dollars — instead of just shooting him?