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Q: Fictional poisons ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Fictional poisons
Category: Miscellaneous
Asked by: kafman-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 19 Jun 2002 21:55 PDT
Expires: 19 Jul 2002 21:55 PDT
Question ID: 29579
I have read several fiction books where a character is killed using an
'untraceable' poison.  I was wondering if an untraceable poison exists
and if so how does it work, as after a person dies the poison could
not be processed by the body any further and therefore should still
remain in the body.  Pope John Paul I is rumoured to have been killed
by the mafia using a poison of this type.
Subject: Re: Fictional poisons
Answered By: skermit-ga on 19 Jun 2002 23:25 PDT
Rated:4 out of 5 stars

Here's what I've come across about untraceable poisons. I'm not sure
if any poison is "untraceable" per say, but there some which may have
no test for them yet, or as you say break down so quickly before the
person dies as to be at undetectable levels at the time of death. In
fact, an "Unsolved Mysteries" episode last week in re-runs described
an arsenic murder in which such little arsenic was used, various foods
were tested in the fridge and cabinet after suspect, but arsenic was
never actually found in detectable levels in the dead body itself.

Apparently there was a conspiracy to assassinate Fidel Castro using
one such poison, botulinum toxin.

From Operation Mongoose (link below):
"Inject an untraceable poison, botulinum toxin, into selections of
Castro's favorite brand of cigars and present the poisoned cigars to

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has an article on an easily made
biotoxin ricin, which is made from the castor bean plant (the same
plant which we get castor oil from). This poison is purportedly being
made by Iraq and other terrorist nations and is supposedly

Atlanta Journal-Constitution article (link below):
" untraceable poison that is twice as deadly as cobra venom..."

One last anecdote takes me back to high school Chemistry class where I
learned that heavy water, or water with an extra neutron can be
imbibed with not much of a noticeable difference, except over time,
when the radiation starts to inhibit cell division, and certain body
processes start to fail. This is a poison which, "which would take
about 50 kg of heavy water at $300 a kg" has to be delivered in the
long run, and only a truly sadistic person would do this to somebody
else. Of course, the poison's untraceable, but the radiation would be,
but radiation tests are not done on homicide victims usually. So this
is what our class came up with as the perfect untraceable poison,
because all chemical tests on the water would come up with "water".

Additional Links:

Operation Mongoose:

AJC article, "Tracking the Terrorists":

Heavy water discussion:

Search Strategy:

"untraceable poison" on google:

ricin on google:

"poison breaks down" on google:

"heavy water" radiation toxicity on google:

Thank you for the opportunity to answer your question, if you require
more information, please clarify the question, or if you find this
answer satisfactory, please feel free to rate it. Thank you!


Clarification of Answer by skermit-ga on 19 Jun 2002 23:39 PDT
You also might be interested in this book (linked below) which
describes the Pope's poisoning and goes into detail about the nature
of the poisons used.

From the book (linked below with article):
"The most efficient way to kill the pope was by poison – a poison that
when administered would leave no tell-tale external signs. Research
indicates that there are over two hundred such drugs which would
fulfil the task. The drug digitalis is but one of this number..."

Additional Links:

Purchase "In God's Name" (listed as out of print but here's a list of
out of print bookstores which carry it):

Article in which quote was taken from:

kafman-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Thanks for your answer, it was very useful. I think I will go and get
a copy of ingods name!

Subject: Re: Fictional poisons
From: sparky4ca-ga on 20 Jun 2002 03:34 PDT
All you really have to do is use something obscure enough that by the
time somebody thought of testing, all traces would be gone.

A book I read recently discussed the use of Phosgene (or heating
freon-11 and inhaling it).
phosgene apaprently was used in WWI and produces effects such as high
fever and edema/heart failure, and respiratory ailments. Supposedly it
appears to be some sort of viral infection when it is experienced.

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