Who Really Killed Rasputin?

Russia, 1916 In the early hours of the 17th December, a freezing winter's night, Grigori Yefimovich Rasputin was murdered

His assassins invited him to the palace of Prince Felix Yusupov, who attempted to poison him with drinks and food laced with cyanide Perhaps suspicious of his host, Rasputin refused to eat or drink With poison no longer an option, Yusupov and his co-conspirators shot, clubbed and stabbed the mystic priest They then disposed of his body in the frozen waters of the Malaya Nevka River Contrary to popular belief, Rasputin was dead before he hit the water

Yusupov and his friend Vladimir Purishkevich took full credit for Rasputin's murder They said they killed Rasputin in order to save the Russian Romanov monarchy, who had become incredibly unpopular over the course of the First World War, largely because of the influence Rasputin had over the royal family Yet something about Rasputin's death never rang true Yusupov and Purishkevich told different versions of the murder, and their stories changed each time they told it The official police investigation into the murder lasted 2 days and was kept secret

Historians have since studied the report and found its conclusions from the forensic evidence to be unconvincing at best They've come to doubt that the men credited with killing the Mad Monk ever committed the crime So, who did kill Rasputin? It is easy to see why Yusupov and Purishkevich had no qualms admitting to Rasputin's murder Under Tsar Nicholas II's leadership, Russia had lost 15 million men fighting the Germans for little success in return

Nicholas was a reluctant and weak ruler, relying heavily on his wife, Alexandra, for support and guidance Alexandra relied upon her close adviser, Rasputin A controversial healer and prophet, Rasputin was notorious for his promiscuity and drinking, and rumours abounded that he was the real power behind the throne To the rich and powerful, Rasputin was single-handedly destroying Russia Since Prince Yusupov was a member of the royal family, and because the Russian aristocracy were glad to see Rasputin dead and buried, it is unsurprising that the grieving Romanovs did little to bring his killers to justice

It is even easier to understand why Yusupov and Purishkevich got away with it, if they had never committed a crime in the first place In 2004 detective Richard Cullen and historian Andrew Cook studied the forensic evidence and concluded that only one wound killed him – a final, fatal shot to the forehead, seen in this photo Cullen says this wound bears the hallmarks of a professional assassination Curiously, neither Yusupov or Purishkevich mention this close-quarter execution in any of their accounts Even more intriguingly, this fatal shot was fired from a different gun to those used by Rasputin's official killers

Specifically, the priest was killed by a non-jacketed lead bullet Every country in the world used jacketed bullets except for Britain, whose officers used non-jacketed lead bullets in their Webley revolvers Cullen concludes that a third, most likely British, man took part in Rasputin's murder But who was this third man? Yusupov's diary entries surrounding Rasputin's murder make several references to a man called Oswald Rayner Rayner was an old friend of Prince Yusupov's from the University of Oxford and was working at the Russian court in 1916

Rayner was also a spy Yusupov's diary explicitly states that Rayner knew about the plot to kill Rasputin – and Tsar Nicholas suspected ""a young Englishman who had been a college friend of Felix Yusupoff"" was involved in the murder But why would a British spy assassinate Rasputin? According to Russian amateur historian Alexander Lebedev, Rasputin's influence over the royal family was threatening to pull Russia out of the First World War Since before the war ever began, Rasputin lobbied the Tsar and his wife to avoid conflict As the war continued and Russian casualties became more and more horrendous, Rasputin's campaign to withdraw from the war became more persuasive

According to Lebedev, the Tsar was seriously considering making peace with Germany, and Rasputin was the main motivator Lebedev says this scared Britain If Russia withdrew from the war, then Germany could move all its soldiers from the Eastern Front to the Western Front and overwhelm the British and French lines So, Lebedev claims, Rasputin was killed on the orders of David Lloyd-George, the British Prime Minister The British government strongly denied any involvement in Rasputin's death and there are no Secret Service documents to prove any such mission was undertaken

Before his death in 1961, Oswald Rayner destroyed all his personal files and records, leaving no clue as to his life as a spy However, a memo sent between Rayner's secret service superiors in St Petersburg offers tantalising evidence: "Our objective has clearly been achieved Reaction to the demise of Dark Forces has been well received by all, although a few awkward questions have already been asked about wider involvement Rayner is attending to loose ends" 'Dark Forces' was the British codename for Rasputin

Unfortunately for the Romanovs, Rasputin's death did nothing to avert dissatisfaction with the monarchy in Russia In 1917, the Great October Socialist Revolution took place and Tsar Nicholas was deposed He and his family were summarily executed the following summer But as far as Britain was concerned, Rasputin's death did keep Russia involved in the war for another year By this time, the U

SA had entered the conflict and the Allies could match Germany's extra manpower moved from the Eastern Front The Great War would be over in November 1918

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