Russian ex-double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were exposed to a nerve agent, UK police have confirmed. The police are investigating their attempted murder.
Assistant police commissioner for the Metropolitan Police Mark Rowley said “hundreds of detectives” are working on the case, after confirming an unnamed nerve agent has been identified in the case. The pair are currently in a serious but stable condition in hospital.
The pair were found slumped on a bench outside a shopping center in Wiltshire. It is believed they were exposed to a substance, but there are no facts as yet established as to what it was or how the pair came into contact with the substance.
Rowley, who has just weeks left in his role as head of national counter-terrorism policing, said an officer has also been taken seriously ill.
“This is being treated as a major incident involving attempted murder by administration of a nerve agent,” he said.
“These two people remain critically ill in hospital. Sadly, in addition a police officer who was one of the first to attend the scene in response to the incident is now also in a serious condition in hospital. Wiltshire Police are providing every support to his family.”
A police investigation has focused on a number of properties, including Sarum House next door to the Zizzi Zizzi restaurant. The Home Secretary warned this morning against speculation as rumors began to fly. Amber Rudd said police and the nation “has to respond to evidence not rumor.”
“We do know more about the substance and the police will be making a further statement this afternoon in order to share some of that. We must let the police carry on their work,” Rudd told the BBC. Earlier today, Rowley said: “Working alongside Wiltshire police and partner agencies, we continue to carry out extensive inquiries. This investigation is at the early stages and any speculation is unhelpful at this time.
“The focus at this time is to establish what has caused these people to become critically ill. We would like to reassure members of the public that this incident is being taken extremely seriously and we currently do not believe there is any risk to the wider public.
“The two people taken ill were in Salisbury centre from around 1.30pm. Did you see anything out of the ordinary? It may be that at the time, nothing appeared out of place or untoward, but with what you now know, you remember something that might be of significance. Your memory of that afternoon and your movements alone could help us with missing pieces of the investigation. The weather was poor that day, so there were not as many people out and about. Every statement we can take is important.”
An emergency meeting of the government’s crisis team, COBRA, has been chaired by Rudd while Counter Terrorism cops were called in.
Skripal worked as a double agent for the UK intelligence agency MI6 and was jailed in Russia in 2006 for spying for Britain, having passed on the names of undercover Russian intelligence agents. He was later part of a “spy swap” in which Russia released four spies in exchange for 10 Russian agents.
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