March 30, 2023

The high-profile story of the murder of Georgy Markov is still of great interest. He was allegedly poisoned by spy Francesco Gullino, who worked under the code name “Agent Piccadilly”. However, it was extremely difficult to find out the truth about this man. Even the Bulgarian intelligence service, for which he worked, could not suspect about his secret addictions and sexual inclinations. A documentary film by a Danish journalist lifts the veil of the life of a spy.

One of the most mysterious murders of all time cold war was the death of the Bulgarian writer, opponent of the then communist regime in Bulgaria, Georgy Markov. On September 7, 1978, in London, while waiting for his bus at Waterloo Station, a man felt a sharp prick in his thigh. Turning around in pain and surprise, Markov saw a man picking up an umbrella from the ground. The stranger apologized for inadvertently hurting him and disappeared into the crowd. At night, Markov’s temperature rose to 40 degrees and severe vomiting began. At first they thought it was the flu. However, the next day the patient’s condition deteriorated sharply – after dinner, Georgy Markov could hardly speak, and in the evening he had to be hospitalized. However, vomiting, in which an admixture of blood appeared, could not be stopped. Arterial pressure dropped to a critical minimum of 70 to 40, and the heart, on the contrary, was beating up to 160 beats per minute. Soon the patient’s kidneys failed, the lungs filled with water. While still conscious, Markov assured the doctors that the day before he had been pricked with poison by a KGB agent because he was a Bulgarian dissident and they wanted to kill him. Either this story was taken for a fever, or nothing could be done, but four days later the patient died. An autopsy showed that the cause of the sudden illness and death was a lethal dose of the poison ricin from a microcapsule, it is not clear how it got under his skin. Georgy Markov was 49 years old.

Investigators from the UK have made a lot of efforts both domestically and internationally to figure out the killer. Francesco Gullino was the prime suspect then, just as he is today. A Danish citizen who worked as an antiquary. Gullino was interrogated several times, but it was not possible to prove his involvement in the murder of Markov. The investigation went on for more than 35 years, but was eventually closed due to insufficient evidence. Then, not even about the double, but the triple life of Francesco Gullino, no one knew yet.

Francesco Gullino, or Agent Piccadilly, in an interview with Danish journalist Ulrik Scott in the summer of 2021
Francesco Gullino, or Agent Piccadilly, in an interview with Danish journalist Ulrik Scott in the summer of 2021Photo: Ulrik Skotte

Spy and assassin?

Information about the main suspect in the “Bulgarian Umbrella” case became available to the public thanks to the journalist Hristo Hristov. In 2007, he filed a lawsuit in a Bulgarian court and obtained the disclosure of secret documents of the special services concerning Gullino. Thanks to them and an investigation by the Bulgarian daily newspaper Dnevnik, the public learned that Francesco Gullino was born in the Italian town of Bra and had been an agent of the Bulgarian KGB for a long time. Not so long ago, the Danish journalist Ulrik Skotte became interested in the life of the alleged killer of the Bulgarian dissident. He made the documentary “The Umbrella Murder – The Story of the Piccadilly Agent” in which he revealed incredible details from the life of a spy, moreover, as it turned out, he was repeatedly suspected of murders, a sexually horny fascist and a swindler.

Francesco Gullino was recruited shortly after his arrest in Bulgaria in 1970 on charges of smuggling and illegal dealing in used cars. In the archives of the Bulgarian Truth Commission in Sofia, among other things, there is an oath of allegiance to the KGB, signed by Gullino in 1971. After being trained as a spy, Gullino went to Copenhagen, where he settled and began to make useful connections and acquaintances. In 1978, the top officials of the Bulgarianspecial services a grand banquet was held in his honor. The Piccadilly agent himself went at this time with a special assignment to London. Very soon the news spread around the world about the mysterious murder of a Bulgarian dissident with an umbrella. However, to confirm or deny the agent’s involvement in the murder – neither then nor later – turned out to be impossible, because in Bulgaria all the documents from the Piccadilly file relating to this period were destroyed back in 1990. It is only documented that shortly after Markov’s death, Gullino received two medals and 30 thousand dollars.

New details from the agent’s biography

In his film, Ulric Scott drew attention to something that, perhaps, eluded the Bulgarian special services in his time – Gullino, throughout his life, apparently, was a convinced fascist. His copy of “Mein Kampf”, as well as a calendar with photographs Mussolinithe Danish journalist keeps in his closet.

In addition to ultra-right political views, the journalist also noted Gullino’s sexual inclinations. As a child, he lived for several years in Italy with his aunt, who ran a brothel. This probably left an imprint on his preferences, and therefore he sought contacts with prostitutes throughout his life. He required some to wrap themselves in swastika flags during sex or pose in fascist uniforms. For such pornographic filming with a swastika, Gullino rented a photo studio and even hired a secretary. He posed as a successful photographer and modeling agent, requiring women to pose for him for pornography or sexual favors in exchange for modeling. A Danish television team has unearthed over a hundred of these images. As the filmmaker told DW, Gullino’s pronounced and somewhat illegal sexual preferences were his “third life,” complementing his roles as an antiquary and secret agent.

Model with a swastika flag, photographed by Francesco Gullino in the 1980s.  The photo belongs to Ulric Scott
Model photographed by Francesco Gullino in the 1980s. The photo belongs to Ulric ScottPhoto: Francesco Gullino

Gullino’s special attitude to prostitutes, a theme also first brought up in Ulric Scott’s film, made him a suspect in yet another murder case. We are talking about the prostitute Hanna Wit, who was found dead in Copenhagen on New Year’s Eve in 1989. Her photograph was found on the bedside table, on the back of which was the inscription: “Riding on Gullino.” During interrogation by the police, Gullino himself stated that he was at a party at the time of the crime. According to the protocol, this was allegedly confirmed by the guests named by him. However, during the filming of the documentary, all the witnesses said on camera that they did not spend the evening with Gullino and that they were never questioned by the police. Whether the alibi is really fake, and by whom and why it was created, the Danish police have not established.

Tricks and tricks

In February 1993, Gullino had to answer questions from representatives of the Danish Security and Intelligence Service. At that time, investigators received from Bulgaria the preserved documents from the dossier on Piccadilly and were interrogating Gullino in the case of Markov’s murder in London. However, this time Gullino did not split either – he was cunning, evading the answer, asking counter questions or stubbornly silent. Most likely, he learned these techniques during the training of special agents in the 1970s. He called the dossier on the Piccadilly agent a fake, and refused to explain the origin of the fake passports contained in it with his photograph. He admitted that he was in London in 1978, but claimed that he did not know and did not kill Markov.

Danish investigators took Gullino off their hook the same year because they could not prove his involvement in the murder of a Bulgarian dissident with a poisonous umbrella. At the same time, a Danish citizen who had been spying for the Eastern Bloc for 20 years was for some reason not prosecuted for treason, despite the charges against him and numerous pieces of evidence.

What are the Danish secret services hiding?

However, according to journalist Ulrik Scotte, it is too early to put an end to this matter. Some of the information that he was able to get acquainted with indicates that Gullino may have passed important information to the Danish Security and Intelligence Service. Perhaps that is why, the journalist suggests, soon after the interrogations, Gullino managed to move freely to Austria and even receive his pension there through the consulate.

The documentary film about Francesco Gullino was based on his interview, filmed by Scott in the summer of 2021 in Austria, as well as photographs, notebooks and other documents that Gullino allegedly personally handed over after interrogations in 1993 to his now deceased friend and journalist Franco Invernizzi. He wanted him to make a film about him and “the true story of Markov’s murder.” But how to find the real Francesco Gullino among the stories, versions, half-truths and lies that have accumulated over the decades? Gullino, as Ulrik Scotte summarizes, was a real chameleon. And, therefore, a born secret agent. He died alone at his home in the summer of 2021. His body was found only a week later, cremated and buried anonymously.

See also:

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *