CLOAK & DAGGERWho Was the Cold War “Umbrella Assassin?”

By Christopher Nehring

Published 21 March 2023

A new Danish documentary sheds some light on the shadowy figure of Francesco Gullino, alias “Agent Piccadilly,” the prime suspect in the 1978 murder of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov in London.

Ever since Bulgarian journalist Hristo Hristov successfully sued for the release of the intelligence file on Francesco Gullino in 2007, the world has known that Gullino, an Italian-born Danish citizen, began working for the Bulgarian secret service in 1971.

To this day, Gullino is considered the main suspect in the so-called “umbrella assassination” case: the murder of the Bulgarian writer and dissident Georgi Markov in London in 1978.

Markov was poisoned, probably with ricin, after being injected with a poisoned pellet when stabbed in the leg with the tip of a specially adapted umbrella at a bus stop in London.

A new Danish TV documentary by journalist Ulrik Skotte has uncovered some incredible details about the life of Gullino, who appears to have been a multiple murder suspect, sexually deviant fascist and notorious swindler.

Recruited by the Bulgarian Secret Service
Gullino’s career as an agent began in 1970 when he was arrested in Bulgaria for smuggling and illegally trading in used cars. A short time later, he was recruited by the Bulgarian secret service and given the codename “Piccadilly.”

In 1978, a lavish dinner was laid on in his honor by senior members of the Bulgarian secret service, which dispatched him to London around the time of Markov’s murder. All documents about the period that followed were removed from the Piccadilly file in 1990 and destroyed.

The spy chief at the time of the murder, Vladimir Todorov, was convicted in 1992 of destroying documents on the case. His superior and co-conspirator Deputy Interior Minister General Stoyan Savov committed suicide in order to avoid trial.

The Communist Spy with Fascist Sympathies
But what the Bulgarian secret service didn’t know and what Skotte’s documentary reveals is that Gullino was a fascist all his life. The Danish journalist has in his possession Gullino’s copy of Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” and a calendar with pictures of Mussolini.

Gullino’s unsavory political leanings also played a role in his sexual deviance. As a child, he spent several years living with an aunt in Italy who ran a brothel. Apparently shaped by this experience, he sought the company of prostitutes throughout his life.