UK police: No Novichok link to Salisbury illness

Gregory Katz
Associated Press

London – British police said Monday that there is “nothing to suggest” two people who fell ill in a restaurant near the scene of an attack on former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were exposed to the nerve agent Novichok.

Police officers and paramedics descended on the Prezzo restaurant in Salisbury after a man and a woman became sick on Sunday evening. Roads were cordoned off as medics in protective suits investigated.

The major response followed the March poisoning of ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, and the later poisoning of two local people who came into contact with Novichok, one of whom died.

Wiltshire Police said the man and woman had been clinically assessed and “we can now confirm that there is nothing to suggest that Novichok is the substance.”

Police said the man in his 40s and woman in her 30s, whose names were not released, remained in hospital under observation.

Amanda Worne, who was at the restaurant, said a police officer told her the couple who fell ill were Russian. The police force declined to comment on their nationality.

The force said “it is not yet clear if a crime has been committed and inquiries remain ongoing.”

British officials blame the Russian government for the Novichok attack. The U.K. has charged two suspects in absentia, and said they worked for Russian military intelligence.

The two men went on Russian TV last week and said they were only tourists who had visited Salisbury to see its famous cathedral.

Health authorities say there is little risk to the public in Salisbury, but acknowledge they can’t be sure whether all of the nerve agent has been found and removed.

Salisbury City Council leader Matthew Dean tweeted that there had been “a number of false alarms since the Skripal poisoning.”

He said it was correct for emergency service personnel to start with a “highly precautionary approach until they know otherwise.”