The former police officer who fell seriously ill after being poisoned in the Salisbury Novichok attack has revealed how he now wants to meet Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, 41, was treated in an intensive care unit in hospital next door to the Skripals following the extraordinary attack in March 2018.
He had been the first person to enter the home of Mr Skripal after the 70-year-old Russian double agent and his daughter were found poisoned in the Wiltshire city.
It was there that Mr Bailey touched a front door handle which had been smeared with the nerve agent, but he never met the Skripals despite their shared ordeal.
The incident later claimed the life of Dawn Sturgess, 44, after she came into contact with a perfume bottle believed to have been used in the attack and then discarded.
Her partner Charlie Rowley was left seriously ill but recovered – and while Mr Bailey is also now better, he left Wiltshire Police last October after 18 years in the job.
Speaking on Andy Coulson’s ‘Crisis What Crisis?’ podcast, Mr Bailey told how he has never spoken to either of the Skripals – and was asked if he would like to meet them.
Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, 41, was treated in an intensive care unit in hospital in 2018
Mr Bailey and his wife Sarah, with whom he has spoken about potentially meeting the Skripals
He said: ‘I would, I think I would. (My wife) Sarah and I talked about this a lot as to whether we’d want to speak to them and to meet them. For a long time I was like ‘no, I don’t’, not for any other reason, I just couldn’t cope with that.
‘I look back now, obviously it’s been three years and I’ve had enough time, and I think it’d be very interesting to speak to them and to get their take on everything and see how they’re doing as well, because obviously nobody knows how they are.’
The Skripals spent more than a year living in an MI6 safe house after being released from hospital and have since begun a new life in New Zealand under new identities.
And Mr Bailey added: ‘I do wish them well and I hope that they can come out of it as unscathed as you possibly can.’
The officer spent two and a half weeks in hospital in the room next door to Ms Skripal, telling the podcast: ‘One of them was in the next room.
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury in 2018
Dawn Sturgess (left), 44, died after coming into contact with a perfume bottle believed to have been used in the attack. Her partner Charlie Rowley (right) was left seriously ill but recovered
‘I think they were in our own rooms, I was next to, I think it was Yulia, and there was a window between our private rooms. The blind was always shut from their side so I could never see through, but I was literally that close to them as well.
‘But obviously they were I think unconscious, they were in comas for the majority of the time, certainly the amount of time that I was there for, they remained in that induced state.
‘And yeah, but albeit we were that close, we were very separate as well, if that makes sense – we were separated in our own kind of little bubbles of stress and trauma.’
Mr Bailey, who left Wiltshire Police last October after 18 years in the job, is now suing his former force in a personal injury claim, filed under ‘accidents at work’.
Two Russian nationals have been accused of travelling to the UK to try to murder Mr Skripal with Novichok, smearing the highly toxic substance on his door handle.
Evidence gathered by intelligence agencies led the Government to conclude the men were officers from the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU.
Personnel in hazmat suits secure a tent over a bench in Salisbury where the Skripals sat in 2018
A police officer stands outside the covered Salisbury home of Sergei Skripal in March 2019
The suspects – known by the aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – were caught on CCTV in Salisbury the day before the attack.
Moscow has repeatedly denied any involvement, with President Vladimir Putin claiming the two suspects were civilians, and the pair stating in an interview that they were tourists visiting Salisbury Cathedral.
Mr Bailey’s story was retold in BBC drama The Salisbury Poisonings which aired in June 2020, with Rafe Spall playing him in the three-part series.
Mr Bailey, who had been fighting for his life in hospital after the poisoning, left Wiltshire Police last October after making three attempts to go back to work.
He described how he ‘couldn’t deal with being in a police environment’ after efforts to return in September 2018 and in January 2019.
Last month, lawyers acting for Mr Bailey lodged a legal case for him against Kier Pritchard, the chief constable of Wiltshire Police, at the High Court.
Nick Bailey was played by Rafe Spall in BBC drama The Salisbury Poisonings in June 2020
Spall portrayed DS Bailey in The Salisbury Poisonings, which was a three-part BBC One drama
The personal injury claim, filed under ‘accidents at work’, came after Mr Bailey’s wife Sarah tweeted last December that he was still ‘fighting for part of his pension’.
Patrick Maguire, partner at national law firm Horwich Cohen Coghlan, said: ‘It has been a challenging three years for everyone affected by the events of March 2018.
‘Our client experienced a trauma which had a devastating effect on his family and forced him to leave the job he loved after more than 18 years of loyal service.
‘We hope to come to a resolution very soon with Wiltshire Police so that Mr Bailey and his family can continue the process of healing and move forwards with their lives.’
Ex-Downing Street director of communications Mr Coulson described Mr Bailey in the podcast as a ‘man whose life changed forever with the simple opening of a door’.
The former News of the World editor was jailed on phone hacking charges in 2014, but has been working as a strategic adviser to business leaders since his release.
Listen to Andy Coulson’s ‘Crisis What Crisis?’ podcast by clicking here