A COUPLE found dead in a luxury Edinburgh hotel bed yesterday are suspected to have taken lethal cyanide as part of a suicide pact.
Investigators wearing bulky protective suits were called in to deal with the grim scene after a cleaner found two bodies in a sixth-floor bedroom of the five-star Scotsman Hotel on North Bridge about 12.15pm.
The “chemical incident” caused chaos in the city centre, with the key traffic route locked down by police and firefighters. Surrounding streets were roped off amid initial fears of a terrorist attack.
Police would not confirm whether the guests had left a suicide note, but it is believed an open canister was found with them in the room.
It was reported the empty bottle had been marked with toxic warning signs, with both victims having lain in the suite for as long as 24 hours before being discovered.
The couple are reported to have been of Russian or Eastern European origin. They were understood to have been in a relationship, but to have had different surnames.
Their names had not been released this morning, with efforts ongoing to trace their next of kin. The bodies have been removed and will now undergo forensic tests.
Staff had earlier raised the alarm after finding what was described as an “unidentified substance” within the room.
Shocked guests were locked out of the hotel, which boasts suites costing upwards of £1500 a night. Members of the public were warned to stay away from the immediate area.
US guest Sandra Didlake, 70, who was staying on the seventh floor, said: “I noticed a horrible smell coming through the lift, it was like raw sewage. It was so bad on Wednesday that you couldn’t breathe. It was getting in our room.
“I said to my sister, ‘wouldn’t it be terrible if there was a dead body in a room’ because it smelled so bad.”
Kelly Vickers, from Dallas, Texas, was staying on the sixth floor, formerly used by the classified advertising department of The Scotsman Publications. He said: “We tried to get in but the staff turned us away. We’re supposed to be checking out tomorrow to head to Dublin.”
A wedding due to be held at the hotel was moved across the road to the Carlton. Police officers helped out by carrying the dress of bride-to-be Michelle Murdoch, 30, and other outfits.
A group of guests was also left standing outside in the rain, having left the building halfway through beauty treatments.
Bridesmaid Kirsty Kibble, 24, from England, said: “We’ve got no idea what’s going on – we came out to see what the noise was because we heard all the sirens going off, but then we weren’t allowed back in.
“Michelle is still in the bridal suite. She’s going absolutely mad, as you would when it’s your wedding day.”
Betty Cuniberti, 62, who is on holiday from San Francisco, was in her hotel room on the sixth floor getting dressed when she was evacuated.
“It’s very frightening,” she said. “There was a really loud banging at the door – there was a firefighter there and he told me I had to be evacuated.
“I thought it was strange that they told me it was safe to use the elevator. This is pretty much a day of my holiday that’s gone, but that’s not of any importance when two people have tragically lost their lives. There will be a whole circle of people whose hearts will be broken because of this.”
Police would not comment on the nature of the substance or whether it was a gas or powder.
Chief Inspector Murray Dykes said there had been a “hefty response” by the emergency services because of concerns about the cause of the deaths.
The hotel opened in the grand 1905 Edwardian building in 2001 and has quickly established itself as a premiere destination for A-listers during the Festival.
USED BY NAZIS
TINY amounts of cyanide are capable of killing a person within five minutes.
Cyanide poisoning occurs when a living organism is exposed to a compound that produces cyanide ions when dissolved in water.
Victims suffer a loss of co-ordination, nausea, vomiting and high blood pressure.
It is one of the best-known poisons despite rarely being used in suicide attempts.
Hydrogen cyanide was used in Nazi extermination camps such as Auschwitz to execute Holocaust victims.