The Salisbury Poisonings – an informed opinion

The Salisbury Poisonings – an informed opinion

The Salisbury Poisonings – an informed opinion

The BBC Drama that has had over 7 million viewers, The Salisbury Poisonings, was a emotional look back at yet another unprecedented incident, the first use of the deadly nerve agent Novichok anywhere in the world, never mind on the streets of Salisbury, a sleepy hollow nicknamed ‘Smallsbury’ because of its village feel but made famous through its now infamous 142 m spire.

A difficult story to tell in a drama because there were and are so many moving components. We have to remember the incident is still subject to an active murder investigation after the death of Dawn Sturgess, having sprayed herself with what she and her boyfriend Charlie Rowley thought was perfume. In reality it was Novichok from a container discarded by the pair of would be assassins, Colonel Dr Alexander Mishkin and Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga of the GRU, the Russian Military Intelligence.

The drama focused on the human stories behind The Director of Wiltshire’s Public Health, Tracy Daszkiewicz, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, one of the early responders, and Dawn Sturgess, rather than the incident, the actual response, the investigation and the unresolved issues.  It was a powerful piece of television especially considering the potential impact on many of these involved who are still coming to terms with what was a life changing event.

A clearly deliberate move gave the series a direction that people not familiar with the story could relate to and in a very emotionally charged way, it highlighted many of the stresses and strains of the time. It gave a personality to Dawn Sturgess, who in press reporting at the time had her as a person clouded by many of the daemons she was battling but never gave her that personality.  It also showed the stress on the Bailey family and the impact of having their lives turned upside down. It tried to highlight the complexity Tracy Daszkiewicz had to face when coordinating a large multi-agency response but missed elements of that to concentrate on her personal journey.

For the informed as with any drama there will be frustrations, I am sure A&E consultants and staff cringe at Casualty when it is on, but still find it entertaining, so these observations are meant in that vein.  I don’t think the initial paramedic and A&E response was portrayed as well as it could and the scenes in the hospital at times were a little wooden, as was the portrayal of Porton Down; but these were not central to the plot, the people were.

I was frustrated at the lack of trying to further interpret many of the unanswered questions, but that frustration is tempered by the fact is it still an ongoing and active murder investigation, so that speculation couldn’t have happened in any detail and wouldn’t have added to the people element of the story.

Some of the questions to my mind that remain unanswered include;

Why the public were not warned about a clear and present danger remaining, I had reported the probability to CT Police, written a detailed blog about it and had a story about it published in the Sunday Papers on 15thMarch as well as having commented on it on many radio and TV interviews?

What evidence is there of a second team that will have carried out a pattern of life study against Sergei Skripal in the days prior to the attack? How were he and his daughter Yulia monitored by Russian Intelligence and does Salisbury have a permanent interest from Russian Military Intelligence?

What were the full movements of Mishkin and Chepiga on the weekend of the attack? Where else did they go in Salisbury, who else did they meet? Why have we not seen more of the CCTV?

What happened to the gloves and other potential PPE Mishkin and Chepiga will have worn as they deployed the Novichok on Sergei Skripal’s front door? Why has that never been found and what is the real story surrounding the perfume bottle found by Charlie Rowley? Why has there not been a definitive statement about any potential remaining threat?

In all a very good series and well put together.  However, I have to ask if it was too soon after the incident? Only Tracy, Nick and Dawns family can answer that. I feel it has reopened many of the questions I have highlighted above and think there should be a more documentary style look back at the whole, unprecedented event soon. I would go further and ask more about the Russian influence in the UK, their intelligence operations and if they have a particular continual interest in Salisbury and its surrounds?


A link to my collated blogs from the time is here:   – if you would like any further comment from Philip, please contact him by clicking HERE

Is there a continuing clear and present danger?

Is there a continuing clear and present danger?

Is there a continuing clear and present danger?

by Philip Ingram MBE

As support from around the world grows for Prime Minister Teresa Mays stance on what she refers to as the “unlawful use of force” by the Russians on UK soil, with the poisoning of the former Russian intelligence officer, Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey on the streets of Salisbury using a “military grade nerve agent” Novichok, questions remain.

We must not fall into the trap of thinking the casualties are in the hospital, a few Russian spies are being ejected and the Royals are missing the world cup, job done. The job is far from done and the threat remains.  To coin a phrase from a novelist who could have created a best seller with this story, we still potentially have a “Clear and Present Danger,” thank you, Tom Clancy.

We now know that this 4th Generation, rarely if ever seen before nerve agent, that causes uncontrolled jerking of the muscles, foaming at the mouth, breathing difficulties and collapse in the minutest quantities, has reportedly been found in traces from the Skripals car, possibly their home, the Mill pub and Zizzi restaurant in Salisbury.

We don’t know how it got there or who put it there.  That means we don’t know where the rest is! The police may have already secured the means of delivery and are confident that there is no further danger to the public or the assassin too it with them.

We have to ask where is the container that the assassin used to carry the Novichok agent to Salisbury, where is the method of application to the Skripals car door handle or where ever it was placed, where is the protective clothing used by the assassin, if in fact it was delivered by a person, to stop them from being contaminated whilst dispersing the agent, what danger remains on our streets?

I am surprised that none of these questions came up from MPs of any party in the House of Commons yesterday after the Prime Ministers statement, I am surprised the Police have no issued a statement to say they have found all of these items so the is no danger, or they haven’t, and the public should remain vigilant.

I have contacted the Metropolitan Police in London and they have not been able to give me a comment as yet, but until clarified we have to assume that there could be a clear and present danger from this horrific substance somewhere else in the UK.

What should you be looking out for?  The assassin will have put all of the contaminated material into another container or some thick plastic bags which will be sealed with an airtight seal; it won’t need to be very large, so the only advice is if you notice anything that looks like sealed bags or a container that looks out of place – do not touch it.  To get contaminated you must come in direct contact with it and its primary absorption route is through the skin, standard medical grade surgical gloves are no barrier to this type of agent!

What does a nerve agent do to you? Nerve agents, including Novichok, are called acetylcholinesterase inhibitors.   Nerves transmit their signals using a transmitter substance called acetylcholine.  To switch the signal off there is an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase that is found throughout the nervous system, that disables the acetylcholine.  It acts as the nerve ‘off’ switch.  Nerve agents simply disable this off switch.

Novichok is from a class of nerve agents called very persistent so can remain around for weeks, after exposure initial symptoms are a runny nose, tightness in the chest, and constriction of the pupils. These are usually followed fairly rapidly by difficulty breathing, nausea, stomach cramps, drooling, uncontrolled muscle movement and collapse. They will degrade over time, especially in wet conditions but again there have been no statements as to how long the contaminated areas of Salisbury are likely to remain cordoned off.

As the world focuses on the political ramifications of this attack, we need the authorities to either reassure the public or to ask for their continued vigilance.  We need and deserve answers.

Note: This blog will be updated as new information is received.  The current version was updated at 1110 on 15th March 2018 – if you would like any further comment from Philip, please contact him by clicking HERE