Sergei Skripal’s red BMW is now at the centre of the investigation into his poisoning amid claims a nerve agent was smeared on the car’s door handle.
Counter-terrorism police tonight said there was a missing 40 minutes in the whereabouts of the former spy and his daughter Yulia in the car.
They are appealing for witnesses who may have seen the pair in the BMW 3-Series before they arrived at a Sainsbury’s car park in Salisbury at around 1.40pm on Sunday, March 4. It is not known what they did, or if they met anyone, during this time.
The police investigation into the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal is believed to be focusing on his red BMW. It is seen when it was recovered by police last week
In an update today, Scotland Yard Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said they remained in a critical condition in hospital, days after they were found slumped on a bench in the Wiltshire city.
He said officers were working round the clock gathering evidence to identify those responsible for the ‘attempted murders’ and have so far collected 380 items. The senior officer said investigators’ ‘prime focus’ was how the nerve agent was administered – but warned that the inquiry will take ‘many weeks’.
Yulia, left, and her father Sergei Skripal, right, touch their glasses whilst dining together at a restaurant
Investigators in protective suits in the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury, where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found critically ill after exposure to a nerve agent
Three investigators, heavily protected by suits and gas masks, work in Salisbury park tonight
Police officers in forensics suits and protective masks work near a playground in Salisbury tonight
Whitehall sources last night said Mr Skripal was poisoned when he touched the door handle of his car, which had been smeared with a deadly nerve agent.
Detectives said the pair arrived in the city at about 1.40pm but officers want CCTV from 1pm.
Mr Skripal’s home is a ten-minute drive from where he parked, raising questions about what they were doing in the meantime.
Speaking at Scotland Yard, Mr Basu said: ‘The public are going to continue to see a great deal of police activity in and around the city, including potentially more cordons being erected, but please don’t be alarmed.
Police and MI5 to look into 14 deaths in Britain US intelligence think are linked to Russian activity
The police and MI5 will study allegations a string of deaths on UK soil may be linked to Russia, Amber Rudd announced today.
The revelation by the Home Secretary follows reports claiming that US intelligence sources suspect as many as 14 people may have been assassinated on British soil by Russia’s security services or mafia groups.
In each of the cases, including the deaths of prominent Putin critic Boris Berezovsky and whistle-blower Alexander Perepilichnyy, police investigations and inquests found no evidence of foul play.
“It is necessary as part of this major investigation by the counter-terrorism policing network. In truth it may last many weeks.”
The Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner would not identify any potential suspect, saying: “It’s a painstaking operation to identify anyone of interest to this inquiry, and eliminate them or include them, but at this stage we are not declaring a person of interest or a suspect.”
Investigators are also focusing on Mr Skripal’s red BMW, registration number HD09 WAO, and appealing for any witnesses who saw the pair in the car between 1pm and 1.45pm on March 4 to come forward.
Police have so far collected 380 exhibits and have been scouring hours of CCTV footage from across the city.
Detailing the timeline leading up to the pair being taken ill, Mr Basu disclosed that Yulia had arrived at Heathrow Airport on a flight from Russia the day before.
The senior officer referred to Mr Skripal as a British national and Yulia as a Russian citizen.
Officers help each other suit up before heading into a sealed-off area in Salisbury to carry out their work
Two police officers in gas masks and dark suits stand by in a Salisbury park as investigations continue
Police at a supermarket car park in Salisbury today, where a ticket machine has been put under a forensic tent
Soldiers in breathing apparatus and chemical warfare uniforms converged on a small village in Wiltshire yesterday. It is believed they removed a recovery van which towed Mr Skripal’s car
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia (pictured in Zizzi in 2016) left a trail of nerve agent in the restaurant after their poisoning
World leaders throw their weight behind UK
Leaders across the world today pledged to stand ‘shoulder to shoulder’ with Britain after Theresa May blamed Russia for the poison attack on a former spy on UK soil.
Theresa May has held talks with world leaders to lay the groundwork for sanctions if the Kremlin fails to come up with an explanation as to how the nerve agent Novichok was used.
She held talks with French President Emmanuel Macron last night who condemned the attack and ‘offered his solidarity’ with the UK.
And Donald Trump – who is speaking to the PM later today – backed Mrs May saying the US ‘will condemn Russia’ if they agree Moscow is behind the attack.
And senior MEP Guy Verhofstadt said: ‘We stand shoulder to shoulder with the British people.’
Experts said one theory is that the nerve agent could have been put in the car’s ventilation system or dusted on the inside. Only a tiny amount would be needed.
Philip Ingram, a former intelligence and security officer who has studied chemical warfare, said: ‘Using the car would explain why both Mr Skripal and his daughter got a dose.
‘It is easy to break into a car and put some of the substance in there.
‘This nerve agent Novichok would have taken hours at most to work.’
Jerry Smith, a former chemical weapons inspector for the Organisation for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said the Novichok agent was ‘very persistent’ and could linger for a ‘reasonable length of time’ as a ‘dusty agent’.
Public Health England was criticised for taking six days to tell locals to wash clothes and belongings. A source close to Wiltshire Council said: ‘People are being kept in the dark as to long-term effects of whatever they might have come into contact with.’
Residents also expressed concern about the increasing number of cordons springing up at sites previously open to the public.
Mr Basu said this was ‘nothing to be alarmed about’. He added that 38 people had been ‘seen’ by medical staff in relation to the attack. But only the Skripals and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, among the first on the scene, were in hospital. A fourth person was being monitored at home but has shown no signs of poisoning.
Meanwhile, friends of Miss Skripal in Russia last night accused the British government of a cover-up. Yulia Ni told the Daily Telegraph: ‘I need some undeniable proof she is actually alive, because we have suspicions that the truth about Yulia’s and her father’s conditions are being held from us.’
Branding the attack a ‘reckless and despicable act’ last night, Mrs May said the substance used was a ‘military grade’ nerve agent Russia has produced and demanded answers from the Kremlin by midnight tonight
The Prime Minister told MPs yesterday that the highly dangerous substance used in the attack was a military-grade Novichok nerve agent produced by Russia.
Mrs May said the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, which also left policeman Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey seriously ill, was an ‘indiscriminate and reckless act against the United Kingdom’.
Chemical warfare experts locked down a Wiltshire village yesterday amid fears that Sergei Skripal’s car could contain traces of the nerve agent that’s left him fighting for his life.
Army and police vehicles and ambulances rolled into West Winterslow just after lunchtime before investigators in hazardous material suits and gas masks loaded a white transit van onto a flatbed truck. The van’s driver was also asked to had over his clothes, it was claimed.
Police also closed off a Sainsbury’s car park where it is thought Mr Skripal’s car was parked. A parking ticket machine was closed off and a police vehicle was removed from the scene by the Army.
Locations around the town, including a restaurant, a pub Mr Skripal’s home, a car recovery yard and the park where the Skripals were found.
Controversial Russian MP compares Theresa May to Adolf Hitler
A firebrand Russian MP has compared Theresa May to Hitler and accused of UK of creating ‘fake news’ over the poisoning of double agent Sergei Skripal.
Vitaly Milonov, an eccentric member of the ruling United Russia party, appeared on Radio 4’s Today programme this morning to debate with former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski.
But he was cut off after making a series of wild accusations, branding Mr Sikorski ‘a prostitute’ and insisting claims Russia poisoned former spy Sergei Skripal were ‘fake news’.
Shouting down a phone line from Russia, Milonov said: ‘We’ve been told you think a guy who was imprisoned in Russia and was sent as a useless fake agent to you as an exchange in some spy drama was poisoned by some 50 years old Soviet gas. It’s nothing to do with Russia!’
When asked how the nerve agent came to be in Britain, he replied: ‘This poison is 50 years old, it’s not modern stuff. You can take this poison from any laboratory in Ukraine or other fake countries that are happy to help you.
‘This is something like theatre or James Bond movie that you created such a horror about new Russia which is very dangerous. For us this guy is useless.’
Putin has made just one comment on the scandal, saying Britain should ‘get to the bottom of it’
Kremlin accuses UK of ‘dirty attempt to discredit’ Moscow
The Kremlin has accused Britain of launching a ‘dirty attempt to discredit’ Moscow by blaming Russia for the nerve agent attack on spy Sergei Skripal.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov insisted Russia ‘is not to blame’ for the attack in Salisbury which left the former double agent and daughter Yulia in a critical condition.
His department also hit out at Britain’s ‘baseless accusations’, describing them as a ‘dirty attempt to discredit’ his country. He warned that threats of sanctions ‘will not be left without a response’.
His comments came after Vladimir Putin smirked after being asked whether Russia was responsible for the poisoning. When asked on camera if Moscow was to blame, the Russian President smiled a little before side-stepping the question.
He then told Britain it needed to ‘get to the bottom of things there first’ before he is willing to comment on the matter.
Theresa May has set a deadline of midnight tonight for Moscow to explain whether it was behind the attack or had lost control of its stockpile of the poison.
Failure to provide a ‘credible’ response would lead her to view the incident as ‘an unlawful use of force by the Russian State against the United Kingdom’, sparking unspecified measures in reprisal.
Mrs May said the government would not accept such an attempt to ‘murder innocent civilians on our soil’.
She will decide on a range of sanctions over the next 24 hours after urgent talks with Nato, the United Nations, EU and US.
The Prime Minister will also draw up a secret package of measures against Russia which will never be revealed.
This could include targeting the Kremlin’s propaganda machine. Whitehall sources said yesterday they were accelerating their offensive cyber programme and could hit select targets for a specific effect.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd, speaking after a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee, today said: ‘The investigation is going well. It is detailed and painstaking work with over 250 police officers in the area conducting this work.
‘My priority is this incident, the investigation itself, so we get the information as quickly as possible, and also the safety and security of the people in the community, which is why we have such close co-ordination with the Department of Health and Public Health England.
‘The Russians have started responding.
‘The Prime Minister has been very clear that they have until midnight tonight to satisfy her requests.
‘Until then we will wait and see what they have put forward.
‘I know that international allies have begun to rally their support and make comments publicly but at the moment what we are doing is awaiting the Russian response before stepping up and responding as the Prime Minister has said we will.’
A police car was loaded up to be removed at the weekend as the Army and emergency services continue the clean-up operation
Soldiers in Hazmat suits yesterday loaded up and removed an ambulance believed to have taken Miss Skripal to hospital
Investigators at the graves of Mr Skripal’s wife, Liudmila, and his son, Alexander, last week as the investigation expanded
Vil Mirzayanov said the effects of the poison could amount to ‘torture’ – and claimed that the use of the lethal toxin on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia was a ‘brazen attack’.
The chemist hit the headlines in 1992 after alleging in a newspaper article that Russia had been developing a particularly lethal new nerve gas.
Mr Mirzayanov, who was later arrested but now lives in the United States, had worked in a secret laboratory which was developing the Novichok nerve agents.
He said that the toxins were ‘for paralysing people’, adding: ‘It causes you convulsions and you can’t breathe and after that you die. If you get enough of a dose of it.
‘It’s real torture, it’s impossible to imagine. Even in low doses the pain can go on for weeks. You cannot imagine the horror, it’s so bad.’
The investigation into the poisoning has led to a series of locations around Salisbury being sealed off and decontaminated
News agency Tass quoted Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova as saying: ‘It is a circus show in the British Parliament.
‘The conclusion is obvious, it’s another political information campaign, based on a provocation.’
Mr Putin dismissed questions about the Skripals when he was confronted during an election campaign visit, telling the BBC: ‘Get to the bottom of things there, then we’ll discuss this.’
Scientist who created lethal nerve agent Novichok reveals its effects on victims
The Russian whistleblower who exposed the country’s secret chemical weapons programme has revealed the horrific torturous effect of the Novichok nerve agents on their victims.
Vil Mirzayanov described the use of the lethal toxins as a ‘brazen’ attack by Vladimir Putin, who ‘thinks he can use everything to kill enemies’.
Mr Mirzayanov says a large dose of Novichok ‘paralyses’ victims before ‘it causes convulsions, you can’t breathe and after that you die’.
Asked how the nerve agent works, he added: ‘It’s for paralysing people, it causes you convulsions and you can’t breathe and after that you die. If you get enough of a dose of it.
‘It’s real torture, it’s impossible to imagine. Even in low doses the pain can go on for weeks. You cannot imagine the horror, it’s so bad.’
The Novichok family of nerve agents were secretly developed over two decades at a research facility 50 miles outside the Russian capital.
Many times more potent than other better known chemical weapons, Novichok agents can render gas masks and protective equipment useless.