In Depth

Berezovsky death triggers 'firestorm' of theories

Heart attack, suicide and murder all suggested as cause of Russian oligarch's mystery death

THE discovery of Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky's body in the steam room at his mansion in Berkshire has unleashed a "firestorm of suspicion about the manner of his death," says The Daily Mail. Did he have a heart attack or take his own life? Was the staunch critic of Russian president Vladimir Putin strangled or poisoned? Here are some of the theories and the arguments for them.

He died of a heart attack. Berezovsky, a 67-year-old with a history of heart trouble, was found alone in the steam room at his £20 million Ascot home. A friend confirmed the oligarch suffered from heart problems and said Berezovsky had allegedly told him a "heart attack would be the easiest way out" of his troubles. Police say that so far there is no evidence of a "third party" being involved in his death.

He killed himself. Family and friends said the tycoon had been suffering from depression over harassment from the Russian state and contemplated suicide. The theory has been given credence by the oligarch's last interview, which he gave to Forbes magazine's lya Zhegulev last Friday evening. In the interview Berezovsky said he had lived through "many disappointments" in London. He said: "I've lost the point … there is no point [or meaning] in my life." Berezovsky's financial and personal problems included losing a £3 billion legal action to former business partner Roman Abramovich last year, and paying a multi-million-pound divorce settlement to his ex-wife Galina Besharova. It is understood the tycoon, who had been living in exile in Britain since 2000, owed more than £100 million in legal fees and was desperate to return to Russia. "Recently he was in a dreadful, horrendous state. Covered in debt, almost broke, he was selling paintings and anything else," said Alexander Dobrovinsky, a lawyer who knew him.

He would never have committed suicide. Many of Berezovsky's friends are adamant he would not take his own life. “Boris was a fighter and suicide was just not in his DNA," Dr Yuri Felshtinsky, an author who knew the oligarch for 15 years, told The Daily Telegraph. It has been reported that Berezovsky did not leave a suicide note and another friend insists "no exterior signs of suicide" such as a syringe or pills were found in the steam room.

He was murdered. The fact that a scarf was reportedly found next to his body has triggered rumours that he was strangled. As an "outspoken critic of Vladimir Putin", Berezovsky had long feared for his life and survived repeated assassination attempts. Friends say it is significant that he was due to be a witness at the inquest next month into the death of Alexander Litvinenko, the former KGB spy who was murdered in 2006 after being poisoned by radioactive polonium-210. That killing is believed to have been a Kremlin-sanctioned assassination and some think Berezovsky may have suffered the same fate. A paramedic's radiation alarm was triggered as he left the tycoon's £20 million property but the area was subsequently cleared of contamination. 

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