An investigation into 14 deaths allegedly linked with the Russian state could shed light on the helicopter crash which killed a Wearside businessman, MPs say.
MPs have asked the Government to re-examine several deaths labelled accidents or suicides, after a former Russian spy and his daughter fell ill in Salisbury on Sunday afternoon.
Police now believe that Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned by a nerve agent, in what’s being treated as an attempted murder.
After the alleged poisoning, an urgent question on Government policy on Russia was put forward in the House of Commons.
During the debate, Yvette Cooper MP demanded the National Crime Agency (NCA) review investigations into 14 deaths which she said, “have not been treated as suspicious by the UK police but have – reportedly – been identified by United States intelligence sources as potentially connected to the Russian state”.
Yvette Cooper MP, who demanded the National Crime Agency (NCA) review investigations into 14 deaths
In June, a news investigation claimed US officials suspected 14 deaths on British soil were linked to Russian security services or mafia groups.
Among these were the helicopter crash which killed Sunderland-born lawyer Stephen Curtis in 2004.
Helicopter crash victim Stephen Curtis
Mr Curtis was managing director of Group Menatep, a £16bn company with interests in the Russian oil industry.
An inquest heard the 45-year-old businessman had received death threats, and believed he was kept under surveillance during the last two years of his life.
The jury in the case took just over an hour to reach a verdict of accidental death.
But Mr Curtis’ death is among those which MPs are now demanding the Government investigate.
In a letter to Home Secretary Amber Rudd, Ms Cooper, chair of the Home Affairs select committee, said: “You will be aware of reports of considerable concerning evidence about many of the 14 cases that raises serious doubts about the decisions made in each case to treat them either as suicides, natural causes or accidents.
“This reported evidence raises questions over the robustness of the police investigations.
“Surely a review of all these cases and the decisions made on them, considering this further reported evidence, carried out by the NCA, would be a prudent course of action to ensure that – as the Foreign Secretary said today – no attempt on an innocent life on British soil should go uninvestigated or unpunished.”
According to reports, Mr Curtis worked with Russian oligarchs including Boris Berezovsky.
An associate of murdered ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko, Mr Berezovsky was found apparently hanged in his bathroom in 2013 and is another of the people named by Buzzfeed as possible assassination victims. Also named was Alexander Perepilichnyy, a financier found dead outside his Surrey home in 2012, reportedly with traces of a plant poison in his stomach.
Responding to Mr Cooper’s question, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said: “I must say there have been a number of deeply troubling cases, Mr Perepilichnyy for instance, and to the best of our knowledge at present there is no further evidence that points in the direction of criminality.
“But I think what she says is important and I will certainly follow it up and I will certainly have that discussion with the home secretary.”