The investigation into the mysterious poisoning of a successful singer was revived this week thanks to some detective work by the singer himself.
Andrei Lugovski was born in Belarus in 1983 and moved with his family to Ostend in 1999. He had already attracted some attention as a singer as a 13-year-old, and in 2007 he took part in the Flemish TV competition Idool, coming in third place.
Since then he has worked the circuit of local fetes and mayors’ balls, releasing three CDs,
Then in early 2018 he was rushed to hospital suffering from some mysterious condition. He was in and out of a coma, blind and deaf, and his hair was falling out.
That gave the doctors a clue to a possible cause: poisoning by thallium, a typical sign of which is sudden and rapid hair loss.
Thallium is a metal used mainly in the electronics, glass and pharmaceutical industries, similar to lead and soft enough to cut with a knife. It was also used in the past in rat poison, although that use is less common now.
Poisoning by thallium, according to an article in the journal Veterinary and Human Toxicology, is “one of the most complex and serious toxicities known to man.” Symptoms include fever, gastrointestinal problems, delirium, convulsions and coma, and if the patient survives the poison goes on to attack the organs of the body one by one.
So the diagnosis of thallium poisoning was clear, but the investigation went quiet. A few possible leads – including the possible involvement of two persistent female fans – were examined but provided no progress.
Then a female friend of Lugovski’s also started losing her hair. No-one made the connection, as her symptoms were very much milder than his.
In the meantime he had recovered from the poisoning, but when he heard about his friend – who as a music fan also moved in much the same circles as he did – his lawyer applied to the court for the woman’s hair to be tested. The prosecution objected as it would be too expensive, so Lugovski took it on himself to arrange the test. And it proved positive for thallium.
The investigation has now been reopened, and the victim hopes it will now produce results.
“There were many traces. We are now hoping that the investigation into that new person can gain momentum,” said his lawyer, Virginie Cottyn.
“They started to say I had done it to myself,” Lugovski explained. “But that makes no sense at all. I am satisfied that the investigation can now continue. Because I especially want to know why this happened. Hopefully I will soon get an answer to that question.”
“My client has been living in fear for years,” Cottyn said. “He was seriously poisoned. And the person who did that is still walking around.”