Sergei Skripal, the former colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service who lost his wife and child within a period of 5 years, is critically ill in hospital after a suspected poisoning incident, and an update from security operatives today confirms CCTV footage from Salisbury shows a man and woman walking through an alley between where the former spy had dinner and the bench where he was later found unconscious.
The CCTV was recorded by Snap Fitness located in the same alleyway, according to reports in the media.
Cain Prince, a 28-year-old manager at Snap Fitness told the Salisbury Journal: “Police had a good look at the footage and were interested in these two people. It was the only image they took away…They wanted a list of everyone in the gym between 3 pm and 4 pm as well.”
CCTV footage from Salisbury shows a man and woman walking through an alley between where critically-ill former spy Sergei Skripal had dinner and the bench where he was later found unconscious pic.twitter.com/rOdAXgplMO
— Press Association (@PA) March 6, 2018
An onlooker witnessed Skripal performing “strange hand movements” and staring up at the sky before he was rushed to hospital on Sunday, according to The UK Mirror. Following his hospitalization, news making rounds in the media say he was fearing for his life after losing his wife Liudmila and son to separate crashes.
Skripal was reportedly convicted of treason in Moscow but was offered asylum in the United Kingdom. The exchange took place in 2010 after both Britain and Vladimir Putin’s government agreed on prisoner swaps. Some Russian spies caught in the West as part of the Cold War-style spy were released in a movie-like scene on the tarmac of Vienna Airport at that time.
Just a year after Skripal purchased their £350,000 semi-detached home in Salisbury, Wiltshire, Liudmila reportedly died in 2012 and was buried in the UK after the tragic incident.
Blake Stephens, a 24-year-old neighbor to Skripal, told the Daily Mail, “He used to live with his wife but unfortunately she died in a car accident a while ago.”
Skripal lived at the property with his Russian son and his son’s partner after Liudmila’s death but five years later, the former spy’s son also lost his life in a car crash while holidaying in Russia although further details surrounding both incidents, including the circumstances, are currently unclear.
“We didn’t speak to them much,” Blake added.
Speaking with BBC Radio 4′s Today programme, Metro Police Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said, “It’s a very unusual case – and the critical thing is to get to the bottom of its causes as quickly as possible…We’ll establish all the technical, scientific, investigative resources at these sort of cases to establish if there’s foul play.”
Although the authorities believe there was no known risk to the public, the area where Skripal was found and a nearby pizza restaurant called Zizzi in the center of Salisbury has been sealed off by police sealed off. Images taken by paparazzi show some investigators in yellow chemical suits at the location while an officer in an unmarked car stayed outside the restaurant.
Image from PA Wire/PA Images show police inside the Zizzi restaurant in Castle Street, Salisbury, which remains closed in connection with the incident
“We’re speaking to witnesses, we’re taking forensic samples at the scene, we’re doing toxicology work and that will help us to get to an answer,” said Rowley, who holds position as one of Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer.
During his conversations with the BBC radio host, Rowley made reference to Alexander Litvinenko’s murder saying, “We have to remember that Russian exiles aren’t immortal – they do all die and there can be a tendency to conspiracy theories, but likewise we have to be alive to the fact of state threats,”
An inquiry by British investigators proved that President Vladimir Putin “most likely” consented to the 2006 murder of ex-KGB agent Litvinenko, who died from effects of radioactive polonium-210 in London. Nevertheless, the Kremlin repeatedly denied having hands in the former spy’s death.
Image shows Alexander Litvinenko on his deathbed
Litvinenko, who was 43 years old at the time of his death, is remembered as an outspoken critic of Putin. The deceased fled Russia for Britain, where he spent 6 years until the poisoning incident.
Reports confirm Litvinenko died after drinking green tea laced with the rare and very potent radioactive isotope at London’s Millennium Hotel. It took British doctors quite a long time before his cause of illness and subsequent death was identified.
Russia says it is ready to cooperate with international investigators if Britain asks for its help in unraveling mysteries surrounding the incident with Skripal.
“Nobody has approached us with such a request,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during a conference and in answer to questions about any administrative investigations taking place between Britain and Putin’s government.
“Moscow is always open for cooperation,” Peskov added, according to the Huffington Post.
Peskov also described speculations in the British media as “too early” and referred to the incident as a “tragic situation.”
“It didn’t take them [the British media] long,” he said of the rumors that Russia is responsible for an attempt on Skripal’s life, adding that Moscow is yet to sieve reports on the matter.
Skripal had lived a quiet life in Salisbury since finding refuge in Britain. He managed his life completely out of the spotlight until he was found unconscious on Sunday.
“They [Skripal and his partner] looked so out of it that I thought even if I did step in I wasn’t sure how I could help, so I just left them…But it looked like they’d been taking something quite strong,” the BBC heard from a witness.
Cases of Russia’s alleged attacks on its unfaithful spies includes another Russian named Alexander Perepilichny, who was helping a Swiss investigation into one of Moscow’s money-laundering schemes but was unfortunately found dead in the UK in 2012.
Investigators ruled out foul play despite suspicions he might have been murdered with a rare poison. In what looks like unexplained sluggishness in Britain’s murder games with Russia, an inquest into how Alexander died is yet to offer a definitive conclusion.