Novichok Poisonings: Letter From a Salisbury Resident to Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu
The open letter published below is by Salisbury resident and local sleuth Rob Slane, which is well worth the read. There are some points that really do need answering, especially if your lives have been severely disrupted by something as crucial as getting to the bottom of murders and attempted murders by a foreign state in your local town. The government have accused Russia of a state-sanctioned assassination programme on British soil without providing a shred of hard evidence. Mr Slane is curious about some aspects of the investigation he is rightly concerned about.
Dear Mr Basu,
I am a Salisbury resident, and I am concerned with some aspects of the investigation into the poisonings that occurred in March and June this year in Salisbury and Amesbury respectively.
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Let me begin by quoting some words from your predecessor as Head of Counter Terrorism Policing, Mark Rowley, who made the following statement on 7th March, shortly before his retirement:
“We would like to hear from anybody who visited the area close to the Maltings shopping centre where these two people were taken ill on Sunday afternoon, and may have seen something that could assist the investigation. 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.”
Understandably, Mr Rowley was keen to receive as much information and as many details from local people as possible, in order to help the investigation. This is of course entirely natural for someone in overall charge of an investigation, and so I assume that you would echo his sentiments.
However, more than four months into the investigation into the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, along with D.S. Nick Bailey, there are a couple of rather obvious things which investigators could have done, which would have facilitated the kind of information from the public called for by Mr Rowley, but which they have conspicuously failed to do.
The first is with regard to CCTV footage from the day. Since 4th March, the public has been shown almost no footage in connection with the case. We have seen footage of Mr Skripal in a newsagents, days before the poisoning, which it has to be said is of little use in terms of jogging memories of local people for details of what happened on 4th March. We have also been shown approximately two seconds of blurred footage of a nameless couple, one of whom was carrying a red bag, walking through Market Walk at 15:47 on 4th March. However, neither of these people are Mr Skripal or his daughter, although it has to be said that it has never been satisfactorily cleared up publicly whether these people are considered persons of interest in terms of the inquiry.
The lack of CCTV footage is very odd, since:
a) CCTV footage of Mr Skripal on 4th March certainly does exist (for example, I know for a fact that there is clear footage of Mr Skripal feeding ducks with some boys near the Avon Playground, at around 1:45 that day).
b) Releasing such footage is surely exactly the sort of thing that is likely to jog peoples’ memories and lead to the kind of information requested by Mark Rowley.
The second point is with regard to Mr Skripal’s and Yulia’s movements on the morning of 4th March. Many early reports stated that investigators were trying to establish their movements, but one of the things that had hampered this was the fact that they both had their mobile telephones switched off.
I understand that at that time, these details might have been puzzling, and indeed I get the sense that investigators were keen to find out as much as possible about the movements of the pair, so that they could:
a) Put an end to the media speculation and
b) Relate these details to the general public, again in the hope that the information given out might lead to vital information coming in.
Forgive me for sounding somewhat facetious here: Mr Skripal and his daughter are both alive. In fact, both have been awake and well for around four months. It is not as if they died, taking with them the secret of their movements on the morning of 4th March to the grave.
And so what was once a mystery is surely a mystery no more. Isn’t finding out what their movements were on that morning now the simplest thing in the world, requiring no more detective work than just asking Mr Skripal some straightforward questions, such as:
- Where did he go that morning?
- What was he wearing that day?
- Why did he have his phone switched off?
- Did he see anyone or anything suspicious near the house that day?
- Why was he agitated in Zizzis?
- Was it caused by ill health, or was there another reason?
- What did he do after leaving Zizzis?
- Does he recognise the identity of the couple seen on CCTV in Market Walk?
- Did the red bag found at the bench belong to Yulia?
- What are his last memories before collapsing at the bench?
If it is somewhat strange that no CCTV footage of Mr Skripal and Yulia from 4th March has been released, frankly it is nothing short of astonishing that details of their movements on the day have not been released. Surely Mr Skripal and Yulia would want this information to be released, in the hope that it might jog someone’s memory, and so help catch the people who poisoned them? Surely as the head of this investigation, you would also want this information to be made public, in the hope that it might lead to new information?
I suspect that your response might run something along the lines of: we cannot release this information, as there is a counter-terrorism investigation going on. However, it is precisely because there is a counter-terrorism investigation going on that this vital information – which your team surely possesses – must be released.
If it is released, it can only do good, helping the investigation by jogging the memories of people who may have seen something important that day.
If it is not released, then I fear that it will only continue to arouse the suspicions of increasing numbers of people that the public are being grossly misled as to what really happened on that day.
And so as someone who loves my City, who desires to see the truth come to light, and who wants to see the perpetrators caught, I respectfully ask you and your team to release all the CCTV footage you have of Mr Skripal and his daughter from 4th March, and to allow Mr Skripal to publicly testify about what happened to him and Yulia on that day. These two simple acts would surely help you in your investigations, as well as allaying public fears that the truth is being withheld.