Military personnel have been called upon by the police investigating the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, to remove evidence in Salisbury potentially contaminated by a deadly nerve agent.
Skripal, a Russian former spy, and his 33-year-old daughter are comatose in hospital after being found on Sunday unconscious on a bench in the Maltings shopping centre.
The investigation widened on Thursday as police sealed off the graves of Skripal’s wife, Liudmila, and son, Alexander, and said 21 people had been treated as a result of the incident.
Among the injured were a detective sergeant, Nick Bailey, who remained in a serious but stable condition. Bailey was described by Wiltshire’s temporary chief constable, Kier Pritchard, as “a massively dedicated officer”. Pritchard said Bailey was “very anxious, very concerned” but sitting up in bed and talking. The home secretary, Amber Rudd, met Bailey during her visit to Salisbury district hospital on Friday.
“The Counter Terrorism Policing Network has requested assistance from the military to remove a number of vehicles and objects from the scene in Salisbury town centre as they have the necessary capability and expertise,” Scotland Yard said.
“The public should not be alarmed and the public health advice remains the same. The military has the expertise and capability to respond to a range of contingencies. The Ministry of Defence regularly assists the emergency services and local authorities in the UK. Military assistance will continue as necessary during this investigation.”
The defence secretary, Gavin Williamson, said: “Our armed forces have stepped up to support the police in their investigation in Salisbury, building on the vital expertise and information already provided by our world-renowned scientists from the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down. We have the right people with the right skills to assist with this crucial inquiry. This is a dreadful incident and my thoughts remain with the victims and their families.”
Visiting Salisbury on Friday morning, Rudd said: “It is still very serious for the two people subject to this outrageous attack. For the police officer, it is still serious but we understand he is conversing and engaging.”
The NHS confirmed that Skripal and his daughter were in a critical but stable condition, while Bailey was conscious and in a serious but stable condition.