A wealthy Russian was sick following a romantic dinner with his secret girlfriend in Paris the night before his death from suspected poisoning, an inquest heard.
Ukraine-born Elmira Medynska, 28, had been on a two-day break with married Alexander Perepilichnyy in November 2012, staying at the five-star Bristol hotel in Paris.
She told an inquest he appeared “very stressed” about his work and was “on another planet” when they went shopping to buy her a Prada bag and Louis Vuitton shoes.
He complained about the food during their last evening together, and sent back his tempura prawns, then vomited repeatedly when they got back to the hotel, she said.
On his return home to Weybridge, Surrey, the next day, his wife made him his favourite traditional sorrel soup, the inquest has heard. He later collapsed and died while out jogging.
I was very shocked and afraid about this news. I thought it was like a bad joke happened to meElmira Medynska
Ms Medynska only learned of his death from the internet on New Year’s Eve 2012 and received a threatening message from his email saying she would “die soon” from Aids.
Peter Skelton, counsel to the coroner, asked if the email could have been sent by Mr Perepilichnyy’s widow.
She said: “Maybe. I don’t know.”
Ms Medynska, who works in fashion, appeared at the Old Bailey by video link from Paris.
She told how she met Mr Perepilichnyy through a dating agency and he paid for flights, smart hotels in Kiev, Nice and Paris, and meals together over eight months.
The inquest heard he changed hotels and used a false name, keeping the relationship “secret”.
Describing their date on November 8 2012 in Paris, the former model said: “When I met him in hotel he was smile, he was calm, relaxed but when we went out at lunchtime he was a little bit nervous.
“I think he was nervous about his work or business. I did not ask him questions about if something happened, I just want to have relaxing time with him. I talked him about subject to make him relaxed because he was very stressed when I met him.”
At lunch in a bistro at the George V Hotel, she said his hands were shaking so much he spilt his red wine.
She said they went back to their hotel before having a late dinner at a restaurant where he had soup and more red wine.
The next day, he was on “another planet” when they went shopping together.
She said: “He was watching his phone. I was upset because he gave me no attention and I was not in very good mood.”
Mr Skelton asked if he might have been distracted by work.
She said: “Maybe he missed some mails. I respect him as a businessman. I understood he has a job to do even if he is spending time with a woman in Paris.”
On November 9 they went out to the Buddha Bar for dinner but he sent back his tempura prawns because it was “not nice” and he had sushi or sashimi instead.
I think maybe he vomited because it was not good food in the restaurantElmira Medynska
Ms Medynska said: “He said he did not like the taste. He was very irritated. He was very mad about the quality of the food.”
Afterwards, he felt “better in the fresh air”, but when they got back in their hotel suite, he vomited three times in the bathroom, the inquest heard.
She said: “I think maybe he vomited because it was not good food in the restaurant. I did not knock on the door because I did not want to make him feel uncomfortable.”
On the morning of November 10, she said he was “looking very nice, good mood, smile”.
They ate a “classic French breakfast” of eggs and hot chocolate before going to the airport together, for Mr Perepilichnyy to return to London and Ms Medynska to Ukraine.
She said: “He told me he wanted to see me. He said he want to meet in December in Switzerland.”
Later the same day, Mr Perepilichnyy died near his home.
The witness said she received a call purporting to be from a British hospital and was told Mr Perepilichnyy had been in a car accident.
She said: “I was very shocked and afraid about this news. I thought it was like a bad joke happened to me.”
On learning of his death months later, the witness said she was “scared because I know nothing about this man”, not even that he was married with children.
In light of publicity around the case, Ms Medynska was worried people would wrongly connect her to “Russian mafia”.
She said it had affected her shoe fashion business and she had lost a deal with a Jimmy Choo executive in London.
She said: “His friends said he did not like people from Russian mafia so I lost a very good partner in my business. I was very upset about that.”
Mr Perepilichnyy, 44, had been helping Bill Browder’s Hermitage Capital Investment to expose a 230 million dollar money-laundering operation, the court has heard.
A month before his death, he had fought off a legal challenge by a debt recovery firm allegedly led by the prime suspect in the Alexander Litvinenko poison case.
The court heard that Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev had been in Paris between November 10 and 13, but the witness did not know it at the time.
Mr Browder attended the inquest which is examining if Mr Perepilichnyy died of natural causes or was murdered.