A Curious Incident – Part III
Analysis of the Attack on the Skripals
This article lays out a hypothesis in regard to the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. The reader is cautioned that this attack is possibly just one element in a larger series of associated events. These include everything from geostrategic chess in the Middle East, to the demands of domestic UK politics, to manipulating public opinion both before and after the US presidential election.
You could write several books on these issues and still not fully untangle and delineate all the interactions between the relevant actors.
This article confines itself to the events of March 4th, 2018 when two individuals were subject to an attack that left them incapacitated and subject to hospital care. Under the laws of the UK, the perpetrators are subject to criminal prosecution.
Criminal investigation rests on a triad of three elements: means, opportunity, and motive. These are the lenses through which the events of March 4th, 2018 are viewed.
Hypothesis # 1.1 Skripal – Means
Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned using an organophosphate toxin believed to be a commercially available pesticide, or weed-killer. The toxic agent was applied in the form of a fine powder.
This toxic material was introduced into the Skripal’s vehicle while it was parked adjacent to the London Road Cemetery in Salisbury, an estimated 15 minute drive from the Skripal residence.
The toxic material was colourless and odourless and sufficiently fine to “float” in the air in the same way that dust motes may be observed to float in the air in most households. These dust motes are inhaled by the occupants of the house but are not perceived by them. Proof of this fact may be made by taking a sheet of black paper and placing it on a flat surface in your own household and covering it with four playing cards, or four large coins. Allow the black paper to sit undisturbed for a week and remove one playing card, or one coin. Repeat this removal each week. At the end of 4 weeks an outline of the removed article will be clearly visible due to the dust which accumulated on the paper during the period of exposure.
Since the toxic organophosphate dust floats in air currents, any material on a seat cushion would have been displaced as passengers entered and sat in the vehicle. The simple act of opening the car door would have generated air currents that lofted the dust. The air currents generated as the passenger sat on the seat would have lofted additional dust as would any air expelled from the seat cushion material as passenger weight was applied.
Skripal’s BMW 320D saloon was equipped with air conditioning as standard equipment. The use of mechanical blowers would further loft the powdered agent. The presence of air conditioning makes it unlikely the windows were opened to ventilate the car. The temperate conditions of March 4th makes such ventilation of the car interior unlikely.
The passengers in the car would have their clothing impregnated with toxic agent. This would be displaced and inhaled once they had left the car. Trace evidence of toxic agent would be deposited in any location visited by the Skripals following exposure.
Trace evidence of toxic agent has been reported in both the Bishops Mill Pub and in the Zizzi pizza restaurant. The police are also reported to have removed the parking lot ticket dispenser as this would have been contaminated by trace evidence of toxic agent when Skripal opened the driver’s side window to obtain a parking ticket stub. The Skripal residence would also show trace evidence of contamination carried in on the clothing impregnated during the automobile exposure.
Hypothesis # 1.2 Skripal – Opportunity
Any person in the vicinity of Salisbury between 0900 and 1300 on March 4 had the opportunity to commit the attack. As it believed the contamination of the vehicle occurred when it was parked adjacent to the London Road Cemetery, the persons with best opportunity would be those within the immediately adjacent area.
The requirement to be present in Salisbury on the morning of March 4th, 2018 does not exclude persons resident elsewhere in the UK, or persons normally resident in a foreign state. It is highly likely the attacker is not a permanent resident of Salisbury but travelled to Salisbury for the express purpose of committing the attack.
Toxic organophosphate material is widely available on a commercial basis and comes in a variety of forms including powder forms intended for topical application on lawn gardens. A suitable material may have been used directly. It is also possible the toxic agent may have been enhanced prior to its introduction into the vehicle. The mechanical devices which may have been used to enhance, or modify, the properties of the toxic agent are readily available on a commercial basis in many countries. No significant degree of scientific knowledge is required.
Hypothesis # 1.3 Skripal – Motive
It is believed the intended target of the attack was Sergei Skripal, a dual citizen of Russia and the UK.
Skripal had an estimated 14 year career as an agent of the GRU, the Russian Military Intelligence which focuses on obtaining information about external threats to Russia. Its activities include the cultivation and recruitment of foreign nationals willing to provide threat information for either ideological, or pecuniary motive.
In 1995 Skripal is reported to have offered his services to MI6, the UK counterpart to the GRU. For 9 years, until his arrest, Skripal is believed to have provided MI6 with information on more than 300 individuals resident within western nations who were actively co-operating with the GRU and providing foreign threat information to the GRU.
The information provided by Skripal would have permitted western counter-intelligence agencies to identify those persons acting covertly in cooperation with the GRU. Once identified, these individuals would have been removed from positions of responsibility which gave them access to valuable intelligence.
This implies that Skripal’s actions damaged the credibility and the careers of a great many individuals, some of whom may have been denied advancement due to the suspicions raised against them. Some of the implicated persons would have been removed from positions of trust and dismissed with a loss of pension, or other benefits. Those dismissed are unlikely to have received positive references and this, coupled with the fact they had specialised skills only in demand within defence or similar industries, may have precluded them from obtaining similar future employment.
Each of the affected individuals is likely to have had a spouse, children, relatives, and other associates who may have been aware of the circumstance of their demotion, or dismissal.
Since intelligence and counter-intelligence operations are cloaked in secrecy, and deception is an integral aspect of such activity, the quality of evidence against specific individuals may be less than that required for a conviction in a court of law. The presumed danger to the state is so grave that suspect individuals will be removed from access based only on suspicion and this suspicion may be erroneous and unfounded.
In the game of spy versus spy it is recognized that if you discover a secret information conduit to the opposition you can fill that conduit with false and misleading information and by so doing greatly disrupt, and degrade, the operations of a foreign intelligence service. Such action would increase the number of unfairly targeted individuals.
It can therefore be assumed that there exists a significant body of persons who view Skripal with hostility, a traitor to some common cause, a man who cast suspicion on others, and who has done so for his own benefit. Revenge forms the primary motive.
Skripal lived under his own name and is known to have travelled to lecture at various military establishments. Some of these lectures may have been covered in the local press permitting an aggrieved party to identify Skripal, and to locate his place of residence.
It is presumed that many of the aggrieved have training in military skills and intelligence trade craft. It is further presumed that they have the potential to apply those skills to track and observe Skripal and determine his movement patterns.
The same military skills and trade craft would give the aggrieved party knowledge of military grade nerve agents and their commercial analogs. Once the toxic agent is obtained, and the method of attack prepared, all that is required is the opportunity to spend under a minute alongside Skripal’s vehicle.
Hypothesis # 2.1 Bailey – Means
The attack on Detective Bailey was unintended collateral damage. Bailey is reported to have been one of the first responders to the scene at the Maltings park bench.
The Skripal’s had an estimated 25 minutes inhalation exposure to powdered organophosphate some of which would have impregnated their clothing.
The human body is extremely effective in attempting to expel, or eject, unwelcome toxins. MSM reporting of the discovery of the incapacitated victims includes the fact that one, or both of them, had vomited and also lost control of their bodily functions. From photographs of the scene at the time of the events it appears that a light rain was falling.
Detective Bailey was able to proceed directly from the Maltings to the Skripal residence and to enter the residence. This suggests that he searched one, or both, of the Skripals and obtained the residence address together with a key to the residence. This suggests Detective Bailey may have had to manipulate clothing items contaminated with vomitus or other bodily fluids. These fluids would have contained dissolved toxic agent in solution.
Since a light rain was believed to be falling, any toxic powder residue adhering to Skripal’s outer garments would have been washed down and collected in the folds of the garment. It is likely Detective Bailey made contact with this liquid when he sought to search the pockets of Skripal. This collected rainwater would also have contained toxic material in solution.
It is therefore believed Bailey had exposed skin in contact with toxic material in liquid solution. It is also possible that he breathed toxic vapours.
The toxic exposure of Detective Bailey would have been considerably less than that of the Skripal’s who would have inhaled toxic powder for a period in excess of 25 minutes. This would explain the differential response of Detective Bailey.
Hypothesis # 2.2 Bailey – Opportunity
There was no attempt to directly target Detective Bailey. His exposure was in consequence of his attempt to respond to a report of persons in distress prior to it being known that an organophosphate toxin was involved.
Hypothesis # 2.3 Bailey – Motive
There was no motive behind the poisoning of Detective Bailey. The event was an occupational accident due to a lack of knowledge of the presence of organophosphate toxins.
As described at the start, any investigation is an iterative process that proceeds based on the facts and the evidence. Readers are encouraged to challenge any assertion made and I will be review and amend the hypothesis and / attempt an explanation. The only exception is in regard to possible enhancements made to commercially available organophosphate.