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The killing of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, at a Malaysian airport has revived fascination in the poisoner’s methods.
BANGKOK: From the courtiers of Ancient Greece to Soviet spies and maybe now North Korean agents, poison has a long history as a weapon of murder, favoured by assassins for its stealthy delivery of the fatal blow.
The killing of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of the North Korean leader, at a Malaysian airport has revived fascination in the poisoner’s methods.
In a story that could be cribbed straight from a spy novel, intelligence chiefs in South Korea say female agents dispatched by their secretive northern neighbour administered the lethal dose, with reports suggesting a toxin was sprayed in his face.
An autopsy was being carried out Wednesday (Feb 15).
A would-be poisoner can choose from a catalogue of deadly chemicals, some of which are relatively easy to obtain.
Ricin – naturally occurring in castor oil plant seeds – and thallium (rat poison) are notorious for their murderous properties. Arsenic delivers a slow and miserable death, while strychnine induces extreme body spasms as the victim’s respiratory system collapses.
But “cyanide is the fastest killer and the easiest to detect, its pathology appears all over the body,” said Porntip Rojanasunan a forensic expert and adviser to Thailand’s Justice Ministry.
She said the victim’s “bright red blood” in post-mortem is the telltale sign of a potential cyanide poisoning.

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