Boris Berezovsky’s body has been removed from the Berkshire, England home where he was found dead on Saturday, ahead of a post mortem.
The exiled Russian tycoon was found dead on his bathroom floor by a member of his staff who had become concerned that he hadn’t seen the 67-year-old since 10.30 pm the previous day.
Following a search of Berezovsky’s Ascot mansion by police experts trained in detecting chemical, biological and nuclear hazards, they reported that “nothing of concern” was found — although a paramedic’s personal electronic dosimeter (PED) was triggered after he left the scene.
A PED is a health and safety device carried by paramedics to measure nuclear radiation exposure. It’s not known how or why the device was triggered, and the ambulance service said that some devices are more sensitive than others.
Police have said there is no evidence of any “third party” involvement in the tyocon’s death. He was reportedly found with a scarf next to his body.
The cause of death is still unexplained but investigators hope to know more once a Home Office post mortem has been carried out this afternoon.
Thames Valley Police said a cordon would remain in place around the house until at least Wednesday or Thursday.
Detective Chief Inspector Kevin Brown of Thames Valley Police said: “The investigation team are building a picture of the last days of Mr Berezovsky’s life, speaking to close friends and family to gain a better understanding of his state of mind.
“We are acutely aware of the level of interest into his death and are focused on conducting a thorough investigation as we would with any unexplained death.”
Speculation about the oligarch’s current state of mind and his past as a Kremlin powerbroker before he fell out of favor under President Vladimir Putin, has led to conflicting theories about whether Berezovsky may have committed suicide.
It is widely known that the exile had been depressed after a costly High Court battle with Chelsea football club owner Roman Abramovich which left him with legal bills estimated at north of $57 million.
Lord Bell, an adviser and friend, who saw the tycoon for lunch in London two weeks ago, said Berezovsky was “very depressed and very low” after the judge in his case against the Chelsea football club owner ruled he was “dishonest” and “deluded.”
Bell added he didn’t think it was likely Berezovsky would kill himself and said his friend’s heart problems would be the most likely cause. “I don’t think there’s foul play,” he said. “I can’t see any reason why they [Moscow] would bother. They had managed to destroy him and they would have preferred to see him in misery and they will be rather upset he has escaped it.”
In addition, Andrew Stephenson, a lawyer who has represented Berezovsky over the past 20 years, said his former client was very shocked by the decision in the Abramovich case. “To have an English judge say ‘I don’t believe you’ really destroyed his confidence and the platform he had [to campaign against Putin],” he said.
Despite this, lawyer Alexander Dobrovinsky told Russian state television he had been informed by contacts in London that Berezovsky had killed himself.
Dobrovinsky said: “Berezovsky has been in a terrible state as of late. He was in debt. He felt destroyed. He was forced to sell his paintings and other things.”
The tycoon’s former wife, Galina, disagrees. She arrived at the Ascot home — which she owns — while an EMT was attending her ex-husband on Saturday, and reported seeing a scarf next to the body.
Nikolai Glushkov, one of Berezovsky’s oldest friends, spoke to her afterwards and said last night: “Boris was strangled. Either he did it himself or with the help of someone. [But] I don’t believe it was suicide. This was not just a normal death.”
Glushkov, a former deputy director of Aeroflot, who like Berezovsky also fled from Russia to Britain, said that Galina believes her ex-husband may have been murdered.
Two weeks ago Berezovsky met lawyers in London to prepare for his testimony he would give at the inquest into the death if his friend and fellow Russian exile, Alexander Litvinenko, who was murdered by radiation poisoning. A witness at that meeting described him as “quite low” and “not as ebulliant and chipper as usual.”
Litvinenko’s widow Marina is reportedly too upset to talk. Berezovsky had bankrolled Litvinenko’s efforts for an inquest into the death of her husband. She, like Berezovsky, had accused Putin of orchestrating Litvinenko’s murder by polonium in 2006.
Its reported that in the wake of the Abramovich ruling, Berezovsky rarely left his mansion and lived quietly with his sole remaining bodyguard, having laid off the rest of the staff to save money. He is said to often refused to take phone calls and was very worries about to meet his debts after many of his debts were frozen by the Kremlin.
Berezovsky was granted political asylum by Britain in 2003 after the Kremlin moved to have him extradited to face tax evasion and fraud charges. He was convicted in absentia.
Despite this Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the tycoon recently wrote to Putin asking to return to his homeland. Forbes magazine also confirm that in their interview with the exile on Friday March 22 — which was not recorded — that Berezovsky expressed a wish to go home.
This may come as surprise in light of Berezovsky’s vocal criticism of Putin. A former maths professor and systems analyst who became a billionaire in post-Soviet Russia, he survived a number of assassination attempts — including a bomb in his car that decapitated his chauffeur.