On Thursday 21 January, over nine years after his murder, we will hear the findings of the Litvinenko Inquiry into his death. The murder of Alexander (Sasha) Litvinenko with Polonium 210 was headline news for many weeks and the spotlight has remained on the case in the years that followed, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of one woman. Sasha's widow Marina has pursued justice for her late husband in her belief that he was murdered by Andrei Lugovoi and Dmitry Kovtun and that the attack was initiated by the Russian state.
I first met Marina Litvinenko at University College Hospital in London on 21 November 2006 and we met under the strangest of circumstances. Her husband was terribly ill, having been poisoned with Polonium 210. He and I were part of the same circle that had formed around Boris Berezovsky in London at that time. Sasha asked for me to bring a photographer to the hospital so the world might know the condition he was in. I, along with Lord Bell, continued to help him and later his family deal with the intense media interest that followed.
I was struck that day at the hospital by the grace Marina showed. I cannot think of many more frightening situations than to be with your critically ill husband at a hospital and at that point not even knowing which poison had been used. Yet she was warm and dignified and she has remained so in all the years that have followed in her quest for justice. She has remained a dear and constant friend, always so affectionate and interested in the lives of others.
Her life during this campaign could not have been more different to the life she left behind in Russia. A ballroom dancer in Russia and back then, by her own description, not at all a political animal. Yet the murder of her husband in London, where they had been granted asylum and British citizenship after fleeing Russia via Turkey, meant that she has literally had to take on the Russian state. She has done it with passion, intellect and unrelenting commitment. alI have yet to meet a journalist that has not liked and admired her. She has met Foreign Secretaries, MPs and editors and she has always made a positive impact. It is as though she was thrust into unfamiliar territory and she has more than risen to the challenge.
Many people have remarked on her beauty and dancer's elegance. But what wins people over is the genuine interest she has in the wellbeing of others. Her dedication to her cause never prevented her from paying genuine attention to all of our lives - babies born, bereavements, birthdays and graduations all receive her attention. Her campaign trail has been full of new friendships thanks to her winning personality.
Marina has faced all kinds of challenges. In the early days after the attack, some people were nervous that she had been exposed to the Polonium through contact with her husband and they had unfounded fears that she could somehow transmit it to them. She was guarded by police and recognised on the street. The media interest was understandably intense. She did interviews in her second language of English. All whilst suffering an intense bereavement.
Her son Anatoly was just a child when his father was killed. He has grown into a bright and articulate young man, a credit to both his parents. His mother's care, sensitivity and determination have surely played a great role in this.
When family and friends gathered to bury Sasha in Highgate Cemetery, we commented on how fitting the torrential rain seemed. Alex Goldfarb, the founder of the Litvinenko Justice Foundation, put it best that day, when he said: "This saga has been Shakespearean. Putin, Berezovsky, Litvinenko. Of course it has to rain like this today." For me, out of this Shakespearean tragedy, one truly heroic figure emerges. This modest Russian lady achieves a daily heroism in her quest and we should be so proud she's also British.