A Russian whistleblower who collapsed while while running could have been murdered with poisoned soup, a court heard.
Alexander Perepilichnyy, 44, was initially judged to have died of natural causes while out jogging near his home in Surrey in November 2012.
However, traces of a poisonous chemical were later found in his stomach.
Before his death, he had been investigating a multimillion pound Russian money-laundering operation and had taken out multiple life insurance policies.
A pre-inquest heard he could have somehow been poisoned with sorrel soup he had for lunch, but key evidence about his last meal was ‘flushed away’ hours after his death.
Tests showed a ‘suspect compound’ that matched the atomic weight of a ‘vegetable poison’ were found in his stomach, he said. They matched chemicals found in the poisonous plant Gelsemium elegans.
A pre-inquest at the Old Bailey has heard that, before his death, Mr Perepilichnyy was helping a specialist investment firm uncover a £150 million Russian money-laundering operation.
Hermitage Capital Management has previously claimed that Mr Perepilichnyy could have been deliberately killed for helping it uncover the scam involving Russian officials.
Bob Moxon Browne, QC queried why no one appeared to have asked Mr Perepilichnyy’s widow what he had for lunch that day.
He said: ‘The contents of Mr Perepilichnyy’s stomach were flushed away very shortly after his death. There is no bag of stomach contents.
There is a quantity of material that was subsequently retrieved from the stomach cavity.’
Mr Moxon Browne said: ‘If he was murdered, it does seem likely he was poisoned rather any other method of bringing about his death.’
He said: ‘It is almost incredible a fact no statements have been taken by police from the widow, who was with him that day and had lunch with him.’
The court heard of evidence Mr Perepilichnyy had received threats by phone from an organised crime group and had taken out ‘multiple’ life insurance policies before his death.
Henrietta Hill QC, for Hermitage, called for a ‘wider’ investigation and said on the day of his death, his daughter had spent a ‘significant’ amount of time with her father.
Ms Hill said: ‘There is an issue why Mr Perepilichnyy had so much life insurance. It has been suggested at one point he was advised to take out multiple policies by his bank manager.’
Last November, Home Secretary Amber Rudd won a High Court order preventing the disclosure of ‘sensitive material’ at the inquest.
The government and coroner Nicholas Hilliard QC signed an agreement saying none of that ‘materially assists the coroner’ in answering how the death occurred.
The coroner set a three to four-week full inquest for June 5 at a London court, but said he was proposing to deliver his conclusions in Surrey.