Salisbury Prezzo poisoning scare ‘not a hoax’, insists woman taken to hospital

Anna Shapiro's lawyers say suggestions of a hoax are 'media speculation'

Harry Cockburn
Saturday 22 September 2018 11:25
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The woman at the centre of a Novichok poisoning scare at a restaurant in Salisbury has said her fears over her health were genuine and the incident was not a hoax.

Anna Shapiro and her husband Alex King were admitted to hospital after apparently falling ill at Prezzo, sparking fears they had been exposed to the same deadly nerve agent used on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

Emergency services declared a major incident when the couple became unwell and sealed off the restaurant and surrounding streets.

But the pair tested negative for Novichok and were discharged from hospital, with police saying a hoax was one line of inquiry.

On Tuesday, Ms Shapiro, a model who also calls herself Anna Webb on her social media accounts, told The Sun newspaper she and her husband had been targeted by the Kremlin, with the paper saying “security sources” suspected a “rat poison attack”.

She told the paper her father had been a Russian military general and that she believed she’d been poisoned for turning her back on her homeland and because they believed she was a spy.

Anna Shapiro and Alex King in a picture uploaded to Instagram in 2015

The restaurant subsequently put out a statement saying it did not use the rat poison strychnine at its Salisbury branch.

The restaurant is close to the branch of Zizzi’s – another Italian restaurant – where the Skripals ate before they collapsed when they were poisoned in March this year.

Ms Shapiro's lawyers told the BBC: "There has been some media speculation that our client may have participated in an elaborate hoax as regards her fear of her husband's poisoning.

"She was not involved in any hoax and... her fears were genuine, both as to the poisoning and her suspicion of foul play."

Mr King has previously carried out “pranks”. In 2006 he added himself to the line-up of actors at the film premiere of The History Boys, during which he met Prince Charles. The prank reportedly meant he won a £100,000 bet with his employer at the time – the convicted fraudster Edward Davenport.

The day before the Prezzo incident, Aleksandr Shapiro, a man claiming to be Ms Shapiro’s father, appeared to be concerned about his daughter’s welfare, posting on Facebook: “I want to ask ... where and with whom is my daughter,” and adding that he believed she was being held against her will, The Guardian reported.

The British government has accused two men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, of using Novichok to try and kill the Skripals.

The Russian men confirmed they were in Salisbury at the time of the incident, but claimed they had flown in for a two-day trip to see the city’s cathedral.

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