The umbrella murder, other ricin incidents

The recent ricin threat at a postal facility in Greenville, SC, follows several other instances of the agent being used or procured for criminal purposes.1 Other incidents include:

1978: Georgi Markov, an exiled Bulgarian broadcaster, was an apparent victim of the Cold War. He was waiting for a bus in London when he was suddenly jabbed with an umbrella in the leg. He developed severe gastroenteritis and high fever and died three days later. At autopsy, a small 1.5 mm metallic sphere was found at the wound site. No toxin was isolated. Because of the small volume and rapid demise of the patient, ricin was believed to be the only capable inciting agent. The coroner recreated the scenario by injecting a pig with a similar dose of ricin. The pig died in a similar manner 26 hours later.

1991: In Minnesota, four members of the Patriots Council, an extremist group that held anti-government and anti-tax ideals and advocated the overthrow of the U.S. government, were arrested for plotting to kill a U.S. marshal with ricin. The ricin was produced in a home laboratory. They planned to mix the ricin with the solvent dimethyl sulfoxide and then smear it on the door handles of the marshal’s vehicle. The plan was discovered, and the four men were convicted.

1995: A man entered Canada from Alaska on his way to North Carolina. Canadian customs officials stopped the man and found him in possession of several guns, $98,000, and a container of white powder, which was identified as ricin.

2003: Seven suspected terrorists were arrested in London for having ricin in their apartment.

2003: Envelope with threatening note and sealed container of ricin was received at a Greenville mail processing/distribution facility.


1. Mirarchi FL, Allswede M. CBRNE Ricin. Web site: