A second man feared to be the victim of a Russian hit squad widely blamed for the death of poisoned spy Alexander Litvinenko has traces of deadly polonium 210 in his body, health chiefs confirmed last night.
Mario Scaramella, the Italian academic who met the ex-spy on the day he was allegedly poisoned, has been admitted to hospital having tested positive for a "significant" quantity of the radioactive substance which is believed to have killed Mr Litvinenko.
But doctors said Mr Scaramella had a "considerably lower level" of the substance in his body and showed no symptoms of radiation poisoning.
The Italian was taken to University College Hospital London yesterday from a hotel in East Sussex where he had been staying under police protection since returning to England earlier this week.
Consultant Keith Patterson said: "Tests have detected polonium 210 in Mr Scaramella's body, but at a considerably lower level than Mr Litvinenko. He is currently well and shows no symptoms of radiation poisoning. He is receiving further tests over the weekend."
Mr Scaramella was taken to hospital as pathologists finally carried out a post-mortem examination on Mr Litvinenko's body, although the result is not expected for several days.
Mr Litvinenko believed he had been murdered for criticising Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Suggestions of Russian involvement include a claim in a letter smuggled out of a Russian jail that the KGB's successor, the FSB, had set up a special hit squad to "knock out" a circle of London-based Russian emigres - including Mr Litvinenko and the tycoon Boris Berezovsky.