Salisbury novichok attack: Police officer Nick Bailey says he was 'petrified' after being poisoned

'Everything was juddering ... my body was dripping with sweat,' officer says 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 22 November 2018 19:01 GMT
Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey describes being poisoned with Novichok

A police officer who was poisoned by novichok while investigating the Salisbury attack has told how his family have had to move house for their own safety.

Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey was the first investigator to enter Sergei Skripal’s home after the former double agent and his daughter fell ill in March. Mr Bailey and other officers did not know at the time that novichok had been used.

The police officer leading the ongoing investigation said that the amount of nerve agent remaining in the bottle used could have killed thousands of people.

Mr Bailey described how he passed through the front door – later found to be contaminated with novichok – wearing a forensic suit hours after the casualties passed out in Salisbury.

“I was the first person into the house,” he told BBC Panorama. “We had to make sure that there were no other casualties in the house.

“It was vital for us to find out what had actually happened to them … the house was in darkness. It just looked normal. There was nothing untoward. Came out of the house, secured it again, took our forensic suits off, which we then bagged up and then went back to the station.”

Mr Bailey, who is married with two young children, said he began to feel ill soon afterwards but went to bed as normal after his shift, in the hope he would sleep it off.

“My pupils were like pin pricks and I was quite sweaty and hot,” he recalled. “At that time I put it down to being tired and stressed.”

The following day he was feeling worse and his family rushed him to hospital.

Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal (Rex)

“Everything was juddering, I was very unsteady on my feet,” he said. “The sweating had gone from my forehead down my back. My whole body was dripping with sweat.”

When the officer was told tests revealed he had been poisoned with novichok, one of the deadliest known nerve agents, he said he was “petrified”.

Mr Bailey still does not know how he came into contact with the substance, whether it had gone through his gloves or he had accidentally transferred it to his skin by adjusting his goggles or face mask.

“It’s such an outrageous, dangerous way of doing something that it angered me as well because any number of people could have been affected by that,” he added.

When he came off duty he travelled to Bourne Hill police station and then to his home, unwittingly contaminating both.

Mr Bailey and his family can no longer live in their home and he said the ordeal had given them an “emotional battering”.

“Not only did we lose the house, we lost all of our possessions, including everything the kids owned, we lost all that, the cars,” he added. “We lost everything. And yeah it’s been very difficult to kind of come to terms with that.”

Mr Bailey was discharged from hospital on 22 March but may face long-term health issues.

Both Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia were initially in a critical condition in intensive care, but were later discharged from Salisbury District Hospital.

Mr Bailey remained conscious during his treatment and said: “It was painful at the beginning … I had five or six infusions at any one time in my arms. One of the Skripals was in the room right next to me. It was all guarded by the police.”

The novichok was smuggled into the UK inside a counterfeit Nina Ricci perfume bottle fitted with a special pump, which was used by two Russian assassins to spread it on Mr Skripal’s front door.

Police believe the spies then dumped the bottle in a part of Salisbury where it was accidentally picked up by Charlie Rowley on 27 June.

Three days later, he gave the “perfume” to his partner Dawn Sturgess as a present.

The mother-of-three died days after applying the substance directly on to her wrists, while Mr Rowley fell seriously ill after getting novichok on his hands while attempting to attach the applicator.

Mr Bailey said he was in “absolute shock” over the second poisoning, adding: “My heart goes out to Dawn and her family because I was able to walk out of hospital and sadly she wasn’t.”

The officer, who has been hailed as a hero, previously said he had been overwhelmed by support from the public and fellow police.

His wife, Sarah, described the poisoning as the “most traumatic incident” of their family’s life earlier this year and added: “Nick doesn’t like the term hero, but he has always been a hero to me and our children.”

Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said the officer was “a credit to Wiltshire Police and the wider police family”.

He said the cause of the Skripals’ illness was initially unknown and officers had “inadvertently put themselves in harm’s way whilst simply carrying out their role”.

The British government has named two suspects identified by police as spies from Russia’s GRU intelligence agency. The UK has also said the operation was approved at the “highest levels of Russian government”.

Mr Skripal was a GRU colonel before passing secrets to Britain as a double agent, and was jailed for treason in Russia before being handed over to the UK in a 2010 spy swap.

Vladimir Putin has denied any involvement in the Salisbury or Amesbury poisonings, while the alleged culprits claimed they were tourists visiting the city’s “famous cathedral”.

The former head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, said the whereabouts of Mr Skripal and his daughter is being kept secret for their own safety.

When asked if Mr Skripal should have been better protected, he said plans are drawn up on an individual basis after spy swaps but added: “Clearly we got that calculation wrong, that the threat against Sergei Skripal was much higher than we had expected, because we hadn’t expected the Russians to go back on a presidential pardon.”

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