The "Lady Macbeth" of the Balkans

Born: July 10, 1942;

Die: April 14, 2019

MIRJANA Markovic, who has died aged 76, was the widow of Slobodan Milosevic, the Serbian leader accused of war crimes. Branded the Lady Macbeth of the Balkans, she was the leader of a neo-Communist party during her husband's rule in the 1990s and had a major influence on him.

She fled Serbia in 2003 after Milosevic was ousted from power in a popular revolt and handed over to the UN court in The Hague, where he faced a genocide trial for his role in the Balkan wars of the 1990s. He died in jail there in 2006 before a verdict.

After Milosevic was ousted, Markovic was sought for questioning over the killing of Milosevic's political opponents during his autocratic rule in the 1990s. In 2005, Serbian authorities asked for her extradition, but Moscow refused, saying she had been granted political asylum.

Though she was never formally charged, it was widely suspected that Markovic played a role in the assassination in 1999 of prominent Belgrade newspaper editor Slavko Curuvija, who was gunned down during the NATO bombing of Serbia. Markovic had publicly accused him of supporting the military alliance attacks.

A Serbian court recently convicted four ex-state security members of the murder but without saying who ordered it.

Markovic was known for her "diaries" published in local newspapers that often predicted future political moves and events. The former Serbian first lady's notes were written in a poetic, flowery style that contrasted with her ruthless behaviour toward her husband's political opponents.

Pro-democracy officials who took over after Milosevic also linked Markovic to the disappearance in 2000 of Milosevic’s former mentor and friend, Ivan Stambolic, whose remains were found in an unmarked pit in northern Serbia in 2003.

Markovic fled Serbia together with her son, Marko, who reportedly made a fortune in murky business and smuggling when his father was president and Serbia was placed under international isolation for launching land-grabbing wars in neighbouring countries after the breakup of the former Yugoslavia.

In Moscow, Markovic wrote an autobiography defending her husband and revealing details of their marriage. She described Milosevic as the leading political figure of the last decade of the 20th century, “whose name was mentioned more often than those of the Russian, American and Chinese presidents put together.”

After his death while jailed in The Hague, Milosevic was buried in the garden of his wife’s family home in the central Serbian town of Pozarevac. Markovic was in Moscow and did not attend, fearing her arrest.

A Serbian appeals court recently overturned a one-year prison sentence for Markovic and ordered a retrial for abuse of position in 2000 for helping allocate a state-owned apartment to her grandson's nanny.

Markovic had worked a professor of sociology at the University of Belgrade. She is survived by her son and a daughter.