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It is difficult to see how a competent assassin would expect the cause of Litvinenko's death to stay unknown. Why was polonium chosen?

By Philip Ball   January 2007

Why polonium?

Alexander Litvinenko is, as far as I am aware, the first person to have been deliberately poisoned with the radioactive element polonium-210, although ironically one of the element’s first casualties was Irène Joliot-Curie (daughter of its discoverer Marie Curie) whose leukaemia was allegedly caused by the explosion of a capsule of polonium in her lab 15 years earlier.

There seem to be only two reasons why a poisoner would choose polonium-210 to do his deadly work: to serve as a calling card—or out of incompetence. Polonium is scarcely the first lethal substance a hospital will test for…

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