A Russian couple were caught on CCTV in Salisbury city centre moments before a former spy and his daughter were found poisoned, it was claimed last night.
Scotland Yard is said to be trying to identify a blonde and a dark-haired man seen walking close to where Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found slumped on a bench after succumbing to a deadly nerve agent.
Russian émigrés in London are being shown grainy footage of the pair and asked if they can help to identify them, a Moscow-based news agency claimed.
The couple left England shortly after the assassination attempt, Rosbolt reported.
A Russian couple were caught on CCTV in Salisbury city centre moments before Sergei and Yulia Skripal (pictured) were found poisoned
CCTV has emerged showing Mr Skripal and his daughter driving into the centre of Salisbury on the day they were poisoned
A source told the news agency: ‘The photo taken from the surveillance camera is not of the best quality. He is a man with dark hair with a blonde woman. They seem to be 35 to 40 years old.
‘They are on the street, they portray a couple in love. The faces are not clearly visible.
‘From the conversations of the staff of Scotland Yard, I realised that these people were next to Skripal in some places, and on the day of poisoning flew out of England.
‘The policemen have asked whether these people are familiar… for some reason, they believe that this couple is from Russia.’
Earlier in the week, counter-terror detectives seized footage of a man and woman walking through an alleyway connecting the Zizzi restaurant and the bench where Mr Skripal and his daughter were found.
Police took away the image, shot at 3.47pm on Sunday, from a camera at Snap Fitness 24/7, and were only interested in the couple, according to the gym’s manager.
It is not known whether the image of the man and woman, who can be seen carrying a large red handbag, is the same one shown to Russian exiles in the UK.
It came as new CCTV emerged showing Mr Skripal and his daughter driving into the centre of Salisbury on the day they were poisoned.
Police know Sergei Skripal parked on the first floor of Sainsbury’s car park at 1.40pm. He and his daughter Yulia visited The Mill pub before arriving at Zizzi at 2.20pm, dining, and leaving at 3.35pm. They were potentially picked up on CCTV on Market Walk at 3.47pm before being found slumped on a bench at 4.15pm
Ms Skripal was exposed to a toxic substance alongside her father and former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in Salisbury earlier this month
On Wednesday, there was still a heavy police presence in Salisbury as detectives tried to piece together the victims’ final movements in the hours before they were found critically ill
In the images, they are seen going towards the city centre at 1.35pm on March 4 in a maroon BMW 3-Series. The five-door car drives past the Devizes Inn pub followed by a red Ford Focus.
Detectives seized the CCTV from the pub on Tuesday night after earlier appealing for information about a crucial missing 40 minutes in the whereabouts of the former spy and his daughter in the car.
It is hoped this will help investigators piece together the victims’ final movements in the hours before they were found critically ill on a bench amid claims a nerve agent could have been smeared on the car’s door handles.
Meanwhile, in Russia, the family of Mr Skripal, 66, have claimed that an ‘angry woman’ could be behind the attack on him and his daughter.
In a bizarre interview, they alleged that his daughter, 33, was planning to get married, but the mother of the groom, a high ranking security service agent, was deeply against the marriage.
It came as the Russian Embassy in London requested consular access to Miss Skripal, who is a Russian citizen, in hospital.
She remains there in a critical condition with her father, who passed secrets to the British in the 1990s while working for Russian intelligence.
A forensic tent was pictured in Salisbury yesterday. Police have refused to say how the nerve agent was administered – but warned that their inquiry will take ‘many weeks’
Counter-terrorism chiefs said the pair were poisoned by military grade nerve agent, which was most likely produced in a Russian laboratory.
They were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury just after 4pm on Sunday, March 4.
They had arrived in the city centre at 1.40pm, parking in a Sainsbury’s car park, before visiting The Mill pub and Zizzi Italian restaurant, where traces of the deadly toxin were later found.
Police have refused to say how the nerve agent was administered – but warned that their inquiry will take ‘many weeks’.
Yesterday, the focus moved to a Dorset village 20 miles outside Salisbury, where chemical warfare experts removed a second Ashley Wood recovery truck.
The vehicle, which has been parked outside a residential street in Gillingham for days, is believed to have helped tow away Mr Skripal’s BMW.
Residents expressed concern about why it had taken so long to remove it if there were fears it could be contaminated.
Jack Langley, 26, a landscape gardener who lives in the street, said police told all residents to move their cars on Tuesday night – and the only one left on Wednesday morning was an Ashley Wood recovery van.
The Skripals had arrived in the city centre at 1.40pm, parking in a Sainsbury’s car park, before visiting The Mill pub and Zizzi Italian restaurant, where traces of the deadly toxin were later found
‘I watched them set up to army tents, and one ambulance tent,’ he said. ‘There were two ambulances, some unmarked police cars and about 14 soldiers and about the same number of police officers.
‘It was about 10.30am, they set everything up around the Ashley Wood recovery truck.
‘I am told it was involved in the recovery of one of the cars belonging to the Russians who were poisoned. It is very concerning, it has been parked there for days and they wait until now to do something. If it is contaminated, it is worrying.
‘But they seem to be focusing more on the house now too. There have been people going in and out all day.’
The inquiry into the poisoning, now named Operation Lime, has also seen officers go door-to-door asking residents about their spy neighbour.
Wiltshire Police asked residents if they knew who lived at Mr Skripal’s home in Christie Miller Street; when they last saw them and if they knew who their close friends and family were.
Wildlife in the area is also being monitored for poison, it has emerged.
The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs said a swan found dead near Salisbury was tested for traces of nerve agent but not found.
Scotland Yard refused to comment.