Sergei Skripal was a former Russian double agent for Britain. After a high-profile spy swap in 2010, he lived in Salisbury, England, near his former MI6 handler, Pablo Miller, who he reportedly kept in touch with.
Late in the afternoon of March 4th, 2018, Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who had flown in from Moscow the previous afternoon to get Sergei’s blessing for a marriage, were found in distress on a Salisbury park bench. The British Army’s top nurse, Col. Alison McCourt and her 16-year old daughter, Abigail, apparently the first to notice them, promptly gave them CPR (1). The Skripals were sent to nearby Salisbury District Hospital, which had a covert relationship with Porton Down (2), the British government’s chemical warfare research laboratory. They were not expected to survive.
This quickly turned into an international story. Within hours of the news of the Skripals poisoning, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Prime Minister Theresa May — with no evidence — claimed that Russia had attacked them with a nerve agent they called “Novichok”. Russians disputed that claim, noting that exposure to that nerve agent, better known as A-234, causes virtually immediate death.
The Skripals’ activities before they collapsed were a mystery. Security officials claimed that the GPS of their cell phones had been turned off for the four hours before they were found (3) and many of Salisbury’s CCTVs that should have captured their activities were not working (4). CCTV’s had caught Sergei’s red BMW at 9:15 am near the cemetery where Yulia’s mother and brother were buried, and at 1:35 pm when they parked near Salisbury’s popular Maltings shopping area. They were found on the Maltings Park bench less than 45 minutes after they had reportedly left Zizzi’s restaurant.
There are two widely-published photos of Sergei and Yulia “at Zizzi’s” taken in different years. This photo, which appears to be the more recent, indicates that Sergei knew the photographer, who shared their table along with a fourth person, whose glass is also visible. The photographer inadvertently took his own picture because of the mirror just behind the Skripals.
Since the photographer (and friend) appear to have been the last people who saw them before their collapse,