Salisbury novichok attack: Timeline of movements by Russian ‘spies’ accused of attack

Police appealing for information on suspects and their movements over two days in the UK

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 21 September 2021 11:04 BST
Two Russian nationals identified and charged in relation to Salisbury attack

Two Russian spies charged with launching the Salisbury novichok attack arrived in the UK just two days before attempting to assassinate Sergei Skripal and fled back to Moscow hours later, police have revealed.

Investigators painstakingly combed through 11,000 hours of CCTV footage to compile a timeline of the movements of two men who were using genuine Russian passports in the names of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, which are believed to be aliases.

Theresa May said the men were members of Russia’s GRU military intelligence agency, after authorities issued European Arrest Warrants and Interpol red notices.

“Should either of these individuals ever again travel outside Russia, we will take every possible step to detain them, to extradite them and to bring them to face justice here in the United Kingdom,” the prime minister said.

After flying to London from Moscow on 2 March, they carried out a reconnaissance mission to Salisbury the following day, then returned on 4 March to deploy the nerve agent.

They were caught on CCTV near Mr Skripal’s house at noon, and by the time the former Russian double agent and his daughter fell ill the pair were on their way back to London to catch a flight back to Moscow.

Police are appealing for information to fill in any gaps in their knowledge, and trace how then men disposed of a novichok bottle they believe was later found by Charlie Rowley.

The 45-year-old cannot remember exactly where he picked up what appeared to be a Nina Ricci perfume in Salisbury, before giving it to his partner Dawn Sturgess as a present.

The mother-of-three died days after spreading the nerve agent it contained on her wrists, while Mr Rowley was left critically ill and has since been readmitted to hospital.

Here is a timeline of the Salisbury and Amesbury incidents:

2 March:

3pm: Men travelling on passports in the name of Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov arrive at Gatwick Airport, having flown from Moscow on Aeroflot flight SU2588.

5.40pm: Suspects arrive at Victoria railway station after travelling by train into central London.

6-7pm: Men in Waterloo station area after travelling on London public transport, then onwards to City Stay Hotel in Bow Road, East London.

Photos from passports in the names of Ruslan Boshirov (L) and Alexander Petrov (R)

3 March

11.45am: Suspects arrive back at Waterloo station after taking Underground from hotel.

2.25pm: Suspects arrive in Salisbury on train for suspected reconnaissance trip. “We assess that this trip was for reconnaissance of the Salisbury area and do not believe that there was any risk to the public from their movements on this day,” Mr Basu said.

2.40pm: Yulia Skripal arrives at London Heathrow Airport from Russia to visit her father.

4.10pm: Suspects leave Salisbury on train, arriving back in Bow at 8.05pm.

CCTV image of both suspects at Salisbury train station at 16:11hrs on 3 March 2018

4 March

8.05am: Suspects repeat journey from Bow to Waterloo station, and onwards to Salisbury.

11.48am: Men caught on CCTV exiting Salisbury railway station.

11.58am: Suspects caught on CCTV near Mr Skripal’s house in Wilton Road, Salisbury, “moments before the attack”.

1.05pm: Men filmed in Fisherton Street, Salisbury city centre, heading towards the train station.

1.30pm: Mr Skripal’s car seen driving towards Salisbury city centre, where he and his daughter arrived at the Sainsbury’s car park 10 minutes later.

The suspects on Fisherton Road, Salisbury at 1.05pm on 4 March 2018

1.50pm: Suspects embark on their journey back to London, arriving at Waterloo at 4.45pm.

2.20pm: Sergei Skripal and his daughter visit The Mill pub in Salisbury before eating at a Zizzi restaurant in the Maltings shopping area.

4.15pm: Sergei and Yulia Skripal found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury city centre.

6.30pm: Pair board the London Underground to London Heathrow Airport.

7.28pm: Suspects pass through passport control at London Heathrow Airport.

10.30pm: Suspects return to Moscow on Aeroflot flight SU2585. Police have no evidence that they re-entered the UK after that date.

The suspects passing through passport control at London Heathrow at 7.28pm on Sunday evening (4 March)

5 March

Major incident declared after Salisbury District Hospital staff send samples for testing, as Sergei Skripal, his daughter and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey are treated.

7 March

The Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down confirm substance used is a nerve agent and an attempted murder investigation is launched.

12 March

Theresa May tells parliament nerve agent has been identified as a “military-grade nerve agent” part of a group known as novichoks.

22 March

DS Nick Bailey discharged from hospital

Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who joined Wiltshire Police in 2002, was taken to hospital after a nerve agent was used to poison former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal

28 March

Front door of Mr Skripal’s house confirmed as the primary source of contamination.

9 April

Yulia Skripal discharged from hospital.

12 April

Testing by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirms UK findings that novichok nerve agent was used.

4 May

Tests uncover traces of novichok in room used by the suspects at the City Stay Hotel in Bow Road.

18 May

Sergei Skripal discharged from hospital.

22 May

The Maltings reopens following decontamination work.


27 June

Charlie Rowley discovers what he believes to be a discarded perfume box in Salisbury.

30 June

Mr Rowley opens the perfume box to find a bottle and applicator, and tries to put them together. He spills some of the substance on himself and washes it off quickly, while Dawn Sturgess applies it to her wrists.

10.15am: Ambulance called to Mr Rowley’s home in Muggleton Road, Amesbury, after Dawn Sturgess falls ill.

6.20pm: Ambulance called to Mr Rowley’s home after he falls ill.

3 July

Major incident declared after tests at Porton Down show Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley were exposed to nerve agent.

4 July

Five sites in Salisbury and Amesbury cordoned off, presence of novichok confirmed.

8 July

Dawn Sturgess dies in hospital, murder investigation launched.

Dawn Sturgess, a mother-of-three, died in hospital days after being poisoned with novichok

11 July

Police find small bottle that contained novichok at Mr Rowley’s home after he regains consciousness and gives his first interview.

20 July

Mr Rowley discharged from hospital, before being readmitted a month later.

2 August

Police seize charity bins where Mr Rowley believes he may have found the novichok bottle for testing.

4 September

Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirms UK’s finding that novichok was used in Amesbury and caused Dawn Sturgess’ death.

“The toxic chemical compound displays the same toxic properties of a nerve agent. It is also the same toxic chemical that was found in the biomedical and environmental samples relating to the poisoning of Mr Sergei Skripal, Ms Yulia Skripal, and Mr Nicholas Bailey on 4 March 2018 in Salisbury,” investigators say.

Theresa May informing MPs that the suspects are Russian spies on 5 September

5 September

Crown Prosecution Service announces criminal charges against two Russian suspects, who Theresa May identifies as GRU spies.

Police launch appeal for information on the suspects, their movements and the “perfume” bottle.

“The manner in which the bottle and packaging has been adapted makes it a perfect cover for smuggling the weapon into the country, and a perfect delivery method for the attack against Mr Skripal’s front door,” Mr Basu said.

“The lack of crossover between the known movements of the suspects and Dawn and Charlie’s known movements around Salisbury, and the fact that there is no evidence to suggest they have been targeted mean it is much more likely Dawn and Charlie found the bottle.”

Anyone with information is asked to contact the investigation team in confidence on 0800 789 321 or email

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