Let's not make a drama about Skripal case before important questions are answered
It's over 14 months since the Skripal poisonings first made world headlines but to paraphrase the words of the 1970s Johnny Nash hit 'There are more questions than answers, and the more we find out, the less we know.’
There's been neither sight nor sound of Yulia or Sergei Skripal. Yulia was last seen in a short video statement released on May 23, 2018, her father in CCTV footage in a shop in Salisbury at 12.47pm on February 27, 2018. If Sergei was sure that the Russian state was responsible for what happened to him, why hasn't he been put before a camera to say so? Even more mysteriously, why hasn't this dutiful son not called his 91-year old mother Yelena to say he's ok? Might Sergei Skripal actually be dead – and if so, why haven't we been told?
Then there's the unraveling of the Amesbury (a town nine miles from Salisbury) postscript. The news that two British nationals, Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, had been admitted to hospital after being exposed to alleged Novichok poisoning from a bottle of perfume found in a bin by Rowley, caused a sensation when it broke in early July 2018.
But a couple of days ago the Guardian, cited a source au fait with the police's criminal inquiry, who stated: “The bin where the bottle (of perfume) was found was regularly emptied, so it seems inconceivable that it had been there in March.”
Which raises the question: If the bottle did contain Novichok and the two Russian suspects didn't put it in the bin, then who did?
There are three possible explanations – if we rule out the bottle somehow quite miraculously remaining in the bin after regular emptying over a sixteen-week period.
The street sweeper works everyday. I know because he always says hello to and has a cuddle from #Togo. The market and visitors from all over the world, means the bins are emptied everyday or most days.— Beady Debs ♿️🌹#TBI #PTSD (@BeadArtist1) May 20, 2019
Firstly, Rowley misremembered where he found the bottle and that he actually picked it up somewhere else. Secondly, the bottle didn't contain Novichok and wasn't the source of the poisoning and Dawn's tragic death. Thirdly, it did contain Novichok and that it was placed in the bin in the week preceding Rowley finding it.
Possibility one clearly does not exclude the two Russian suspects leaving the Novichok somewhere else, eg in a bush in the park and Rowley finding it several weeks later. However, Rowley did tell ITV in July 2018: “I feel confident in myself to say it wasn't picked up in the park.”
The other two possibilities raise some very serious questions indeed. They would indicate that some unknown actor was keen to link the poisoning of Rowley and Burgess to the earlier events in Salisbury. If so, was it done to try and further turn public opinion against Russia in pursuance of a geopolitical agenda?
Again, it's worth stressing that up to now the Metropolitan Police have been unable able to link the poisoning of Rowley and Burgess to that of the Skripals.
All things considered, what we could really do with at this point is answers from the authorities who were so quick to throw accusations at Russia, and a new television documentary could help that.
I'm old enough to remember the excellent ITV series ‘In Suspicious Circumstances’, shown in the early 1990s, which looked into real-life murder mysteries of the past. The individual programs were introduced by the late Edward Woodward. They included mini-dramatizations, but in the end, Woodward would sum up what we did know and what we didn't and let us make our own minds up.
One would hope that ‘Salisbury’ the new two-part BBC ‘factual drama’ on the Skripal case, announced last week, will follow the same forensic pattern, but given the anti-Russian undercurrent to so much of contemporary programming, one can't be too optimistic. The article on the BBC website announcing the drama doesn't inspire confidence as it states “Dawn Sturgess was fatally poisoned in the attack.”
The truth is that the Met has been unable to prove that and manslaughter charges against the two Russian suspects have not been bought.Also on rt.com Hospitalized children & dead ducks? The ‘official’ Skripal narrative goes completely quackers
Commissioning a two-part drama about an event which remains clouded in so much uncertainty is premature. Surely it would be better to try and establish exactly what happened first, and then make the drama? Perhaps Government DSMA Notices (formerly D-Notices) are the reason why proper investigative journalism is not taking place. We know of at least two DSMAs being issued in relation to the Skripal affair. But these notices are not legally enforceable and Britain is not –or at least not yet – a totalitarian state. It should be possible to make a painstakingly-factual documentary on the Skripal case without compromising national security.
For such a documentary to be credible, it would be imperative that the two Russian suspects, traveling under the names of Boshirov and Petrov, but allegedly Messrs Chepiga and Mishkin of Russian Military Intelligence, make themselves available for interview. If they had nothing to do with the poisoning of the Skripals then we really need to know what they were doing in Salisbury on the weekend in question (no one, let's face it, is convinced about the ‘they were just tourists visiting the Cathedral’ line). At the same time, other leads need to be investigated too. Could the poisonings have been planned by an unknown actor hostile to Russia, with the knowledge that the two Russians were visiting Salisbury for a purpose connected to Sergei Skripal but not involving poisoning him? Could Boshirov and Petrov have been set up, with traces of Novichok left in their hotel room weeks later to try and incriminate them? That would explain why no guests occupying the room after Boshirov and Petrov became ill.
Can we even be 100 percent sure that Novichok was indeed used, and that the Skripals weren't instead the victims of fentanyl poisoning? Remember the testimony of eyewitness Freya Church, who saw the Skripals on the bench that Sunday afternoon, and who told the BBC: “He was doing some strange hand movements, looking up to the sky... They looked like they had been taking something quite strong”.
Remember too the letter to the Times published on 14th March 2018 from Dr Stephen Davies, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, who wrote: “May I clarify that no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning...No member of the public has been contaminated by the agent involved.”
In the light of the #Skripals miraculous (& v. welcome) recovery it may be worth reading again this letter from Dr Stephen Davies, Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Salisbury. ´No patients have experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning in Salisbury’ pic.twitter.com/1yxHv6lDcg— Neil Clark (@NeilClark66) April 6, 2018
Might what happened to be linked to Skripal's work on Russian criminal/Mafia gangs with Spanish Intelligence?
Could there be a connection to the Steele dossier, or is that just a wild conspiracy theory? Where is the CCTV footage of the Skripals in Salisbury on 4th March 2018? Why haven't we seen it?
And regarding the Amesbury postscript, if Novichok was suspected, why has there still been no coroner's inquest into the death of Dawn Sturgess?
These are the questions that I'm sure Edward Woodward would be asking.
Journalists should be asking them too.
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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.