"I think it abundantly clear that what we have been told about what took place on 4th March in the beautiful city of Salisbury is not, in fact, true. It is clear that something else happened, and much of what we have seen since then has been theatre and an attempt to cover up what actually took place.”
Helmer is the longest serving foreign correspondent covering Russia. He published his fascinating memoirs in December of 2018. They are full of insights into what has really been going on in Moscow over the past 30 years. RI wrote about it here. He is the author of 12 books, 3 of them about Russia.
The British state broadcaster BBC and other media have disclosed that the Salisbury house (lead image) owned by Sergei Skripal is to be partially demolished and rebuilt over the next four months.
A Wiltshire Council notice to residents in the neighbourhood of the Skripal home is the source of the news reports. The January 4 notice, a media briefing by the Wiltshire Council, and a press release by a spokesman at the Ministry of Defence do not say how much of the house will be reconstructed. “We are working with the site owner, Wiltshire Council and other partners to ensure that the house will be fully repaired and returned to a fit state to live in,” the anonymous Defence Ministry official was quoted as saying by the Salisbury Journal.
The British Government, London and Wiltshire police, and media reports have claimed that a fast-acting, lethal nerve agent was administered to the handle of the front-door of the Skripal house eleven months ago, on March 4. The alleged attackers have been identified by Prime Minister Theresa May (lead image, left) as two Russians. No allegation nor evidence has been reported to date that they or their poison penetrated inside the Skripal residence.
Two senior Wiltshire Council officials, Tracy Daszkiewicz, Director of Public Health and Protection, and Alistair Cunningham, coordinator of the recovery programme, were asked to clarify how much of the Skripal house will be replaced. Replying today through spokesman David Perrett, they said “there are no plans to demolish the property at 47 Christie Miller Road. The roof and garage roof are being removed and replaced.”
Because the front-door handle was the sole identified site of the attack, and decontamination has been under way for eleven months, the two officials were asked to explain their reason for the reconstruction.
“Every decontamination site is different”, Perrett responded. “Each one has a tailored decontamination plan. As you would expect this site is more complex than others… we are taking a highly precautionary approach and that is why the clean-up work is so extensive and meticulous. It is vitally important we are thorough on all the sites so that local residents can be fully confident that each one is safe when returned to use.”
Perrett added: “In the more contaminated sites some hard surfaces might be removed.”
Angus Macpherson, the Wiltshire police commissioner, told the press on Monday that Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who entered the Skripal house on the evening of the poison attack and who was hospitalized later for nerve agent exposure, returned to active duty this week. Bailey has told the BBC he has “lost everything” in his house.
Commissioner Macpherson, together with Daszkiewicz and Cunningham, were asked to say if the Bailey house is also to be demolished and why. Through Perrett, they answered. “Sgt Bailey’s house has been fully cleaned. There are no plans to demolish this property.”
Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia fell ill in the centre of Salisbury town several hours after leaving their home in the afternoon of March 4. They did not return to the house before they were hospitalized. A BBC reconstruction of their departure and the alleged door-handle attack was published on November 22.
The BBC claims the door handle was sprayed with a nerve agent for “a matter of seconds”; and that minutes later Sergei Skripal touched the handle bare-handed, on his way out of the house. In the BBC reconstruction, Yulia Skripal was shown as wearing gloves and as not touching the door-handle.
Both Skripals have been released from hospital. Public statements, including one filmed appearance and telephone calls, have been made by Yulia. Sergei has made no statement; no telephonic or photographic evidence of his condition has been published.
The Skripal poisoning case, and Prime Minister May’s charge that Russian government agents were to blame, have triggered international concern and sanctions against the Russian state.
According to May’s House of Commons statement on March 14, “there is no alternative conclusion other than that the Russian State was culpable for the attempted murder of Mr Skripal and his daughter – and for threatening the lives of other British citizens in Salisbury, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.” No British prosecution indictment of attempted murder has been presented to a court nor have charges of a criminal conspiracy by the Russians been tested by a British judge.
In September, when decontamination works were under way at the Skripal home, the Guardian reported: “there has been speculation that the house may be knocked down but it is not believed a final decision has been made on its long-term future.” The Wiltshire Council statements this morning suggest the final decision has been made to reconstruct the Skripal house and to “clean” the Bailey house.
In November, during the BBC interview with Bailey, the police detective said that accompanied by at least one, possibly two other police officers, garbed in “full forensic suits” with gloves and face masks, he had inspected the Skripal house late in the evening of March 4. According to Bailey, “the house was in darkness. It just looked normal. There was nothing untoward”. The police trio left the house, took off their forensic gear, “bagged them up”, and returned to the police station.
Left: Wiltshire police stand guard, unprotected, in front of the poisoned door-handle; Skripal’s study is to the right of the door. Right: Sgt Bailey’s police car being examined by investigators.
Bailey subsequently reported to the BBC that “everything the kids owned, we lost all that, the cars, we lost everything.”
There has been no report that the Wiltshire police station where Bailey’s forensic suit, gloves and mask were returned before he went home and then developed symptoms requiring hospitalization, has been either decontaminated or demolished.
None of the locations where the Skripals spent time before their collapse, including a car park, pub, and restaurant has been demolished. Local authorities have issued bulletins confirming that following expert checks and decontamination procedures, they are safe for public use.
The London hotel, where the alleged Russian poison attackers stayed together before they travelled to Salisbury for their alleged attack, has also been reported by the police and media to have revealed nerve agent traces. “Novichok was found in bedroom”, reported the Telegraph last September.
The newspaper also reported that no part of the hotel has been demolished.
According to Perrett of the Wiltshire Council, at the present time “there are only two remaining sites being cleaned, Mr Skripal’s house at Christie Miller Road, Salisbury, and Charlie Rowley’s residence at Muggleton Road, Amesbury.” Rowley survived later exposure, on June 30, to the poison in a bottle which he found abandoned and took home.
His partner, Dawn Sturgess, to whom Rowley presented the bottle, died following her exposure. “All other sites,” said the Wiltshire Council spokesman, “have been cleaned and handed back to their owners.”
The destruction of the main roof of the Skripal house and of the roof above Skripal’s study is the first evidence that the alleged nerve agent has been found in the interior, far beyond the range which the alleged Russian agents’ spray could have penetrated. The demolition plan also covers areas of the interior which Bailey did not reach in his March 4 inspection.
Forensic sources believe this is circumstantial evidence for two new conclusions. The first is that the poison was inside the Skripal house and inside Sergei Skripal’s study before the alleged attack on the door handle. Until and unless the British authorities explain why they are demolishing the roofs and other interior property, which only Sergei Skripal, not Sgt Bailey, could have contaminated on March 4, the sources believe no other inference is probable.
The second conclusion is that it was Skripal who exposed himself to a poison he was handling inside the house. That he did so by accident is likely; the accident theory was first reported here, on March 25, 2018.
The only independent British investigator of the affair, Rob Slane, has announced that he is retiring from the case. Here is his last word.
“Even as I was finishing this piece off, yet another round of nonsense was unleashed; this time, the news that the roof of 47 Christie Miller Road (including the roof of the study) is to be taken off and replaced.
Remember, we’re talking about a substance that can be cleansed with baby wipes. Remember, we’re talking about a substance that apparently breaks down after 80 minutes of exposure to the air.
But 11 months later, it is again so deadly, that a whole roof needs replacing! Of course the media is not bothering to ask the obvious questions about this action, such as: How exactly could the roof timbers have become contaminated? Who could have contaminated them? D.S. Bailey? But why would he have been in the attic? Why is the ceiling / roof in Zizzis [restaurant] not being replaced?
Why has the roof in The Mill [pub] not been dismantled? What was really in the attic? Obvious questions, yet none of them will be asked.
In conclusion, I think it abundantly clear that what we have been told about what took place on 4th March in the beautiful city of Salisbury is not, in fact, true. It is clear that something else happened, and much of what we have seen since then has been theatre and an attempt to cover up what actually took place.”
Source: Dances with Bears