skripal house
Having now watched the rest of the BBC Panorama programme, Salisbury Nerve Agent Attack - the Inside Story, I have to say that I'm really very thankful. Thankful that after being subjected to an hour of what can only be described as relentless propaganda, half-baked truths, and fully-baked untruths, I have lived to tell the tale and emerged to come up for air.

One of the worst aspects of this programme was the fact that the BBC is surely well aware that large numbers of people have been sceptical about the Government and Metropolitan Police narrative from the start. Yet you wouldn't know from the show that there was ever any room for doubt, and the number of questions that the nation's public service broadcaster asked which might have represented the views of the many people who have had nagging doubts was less than one.

I want to make one big observation about the programme, which I believe pretty much destroys The Met's narrative, but before I do here are 10 other points.

First: At one point the presenter, Jane Corbin, stated the following:
"In Salisbury, it takes two weeks of painstaking investigation for scientists and police to work out exactly how the Skripals came into contact with the Novichok."
Dept Asst Commissioner Dean Haydon is then seen saying:
"To find the source of the Novichok, actually was our first breakthrough. We identified that it was Novichok on the front door the front door handle of their home address."
This two week period makes little sense. From the moment it was known that Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey had been poisoned, it should have been very straightforward to start zeroing in on the location of the poisoning. The reason for this is that logically it could only have been in a place that both he and the Skripals had been. And according to Mr Bailey's story, which was completely different than what many officials previously told us about his movements, this can only have been at the house (not even the bench according to his testimony, as he now apparently wasn't there when the Skripals were). And so the house should have been locked down, with swabs taken as early as 6th March, and the location of the poison identified. But instead, we got two weeks of "it could be here, it could be there" - all in various places which couldn't possibly have been the location because Mr Bailey hadn't actually been to them.

Second: Despite the fact that the programme portrayed "Novichok" as "deadly," "lethal," "10X more toxic than any nerve agent created before or since," "unique in its ability to poison individuals at quite low concentrations," "the tiniest dose can be fatal," there is of course the fact that it singularly failed to kill a 65-year-old, overweight diabetic, his daughter, and Mr Bailey. In order to get around this, Mrs Corbin interviewed one of the men who worked on the original Foliant (not "Novichok") project, Vil Mirzyanov, who said:
"Maybe the dose was not high enough. Salisbury was rainy and muggy. Novichok breaks down in damp conditions, reducing its toxicity. It's the Achilles Heel of Novichok."
Perhaps it is the Achilles Heel of Novichok. But if it is, it is also the Achilles Heel of the whole premise of the Panorama programme, since it raises two vital questions: firstly, given that the English weather in general is often damp, and the weather conditions on that weekend in particular were very damp, how likely exactly do you think it that professional assassins would place a substance that breaks down in damp conditions on an outside door handle? And secondly, if the substance had already broken down within an hour of its application, as The Met's case relies on to explain how a deadly nerve agent didn't kill, how exactly were the OPCW able to find traces of the toxic chemical which they described as high purity and with "almost complete absence of impurities," nearly three weeks later after much rain, much snow, and much general dampness?

Third: I was struck by the fact that Mrs Corbin stood by the bed of Mr Skripal's mother, and heard that clearly very distressed lady say that she just wanted to hear her son's voice, and yet it did not appear to occur to Mrs Corbin to ask anyone in officialdom back home, "Why won't you let the son talk to his mother?"

Fourth: Mrs Corbin claimed of Yulia Skripal that in her Reuters statement, she:
"appears in public, to deny continuing Russian claims that the Skripals have been abducted by the British."
This is simply a falsehood. You can look at that video or the transcript and you will find no such statement from Yulia Skripal.

Fifth: The ex head of MI6, Sir John Sawers, who in the immortal words of Anne Widdecombe about Michael Howard, appears to have "something of the night" about him, stated the following:
"The GRU probably chose a time when she [Yulia] was coming here and would be in the house, because that would give them certainty that Sergei Skripal would be in the house as well. They weren't targeting Yulia Skripal, but she was entirely dispensable."
The first part of this statement may well win the prize for the most ridiculous statement of the whole programme. I'll leave you to work out why. As for the second part, in the light of his comments, Sir John should explain the following: If it's the case that the GRU carried out this reckless attempt on her father's life, and viewed her as entirely dispensable, why is it that Yulia has, on numerous occasions, expressed a desire to go back to live in Russia? Has MI6 failed in its attempt to persuade her who was behind the poisoning and why this means she can never go back?

Sixth: A reconstruction of the alleged events on 4th March was shown, including the two suspects at Salisbury train station, followed by the Wilton Road, and then on the bridge at Fisherton Street. This was accompanied by a comment from Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon, who said:
"I don't think they were expecting to be captured on CCTV in the way they have."
Here, he was seemingly vying with Sir John for the title of silliest comment on the programme, since:

a) Britain is well known for being the CCTV capital of the world, and the GU are likely to be aware of this, and

b) It's not like Petrov and Boshirov made attempts not to be seen, but got caught all the same, as Mr Haydon's comment implies. No, the most obvious point about the men in the footage is that at no point do they make any attempt to keep their identities hid from the cameras.

Seventh: Mr Haydon also made the following comment during the "reconstruction":
"Past the petrol station, what the CCTV shows is the two suspects on the way to Christie Miller Road. On the way to the Skripals home."
This is simply misleading. The CCTV does not show them "on their way to Christie Miller Road". When you see the two men walking next to the garage, Christie Miller Road is roughly perpendicular to them, about 400-500 yards away. It is true that they might have crossed the road and gone up Canadian Avenue, and then onto Christie Miller Road, but this CCTV doesn't show this, and no other evidence was presented to show that this is what they actually did. And so without any further evidence that they crossed the road to go to Christie Miller Road, it is simply misleading to say that it "shows them on the way to Christie Miller Road."

What the CCTV does do, however, is almost certainly rule out one of the possible routes they might have taken to get to Christie Miller Road, which is to go through a passageway just past the Shell garage, which leads to Montgomery Gardens and then onto Christie Miller Road. To take this passage, they would have had to cross the road, and the easiest way of doing this would be to cross to a small island just opposite the garage. But as you can see from the footage, they are walking straight on, and there is no sign whatsoever of them crossing to this island. Though not conclusive, it makes it extremely doubtful that they were intending to, or ever did, walk through this passage.

I also have to say that if I was walking that way up the Wilton Road (as I have done), and wanted to go up Canadian Avenue, I would cross at that small island, since it is by far the easiest way to get there.

Eighth: One of the more glaring things about the programme was who was missing. Although Mr Bailey's appearance was something of a surprise, hardly any of the key witnesses at the bench were interviewed, nor was Charlie Rowley, who seems to have disappeared after his claim about the bottle he found being cellophane wrapped kind of muddled things up a bit. And then of course Yulia Skripal, who has been mysteriously silent since July, when she informed her cousin that she finally understood what had happened. And the biggest one of all - Sergei Skripal himself. Strangely, Mrs Corbin expressed no surprise that he has not been seen of or heard of during this whole saga, and she made no reasonable attempt to explain why she had not been given access to him for an interview.

Ninth: Mrs Corbin asserted the following:
"Within a few weeks, the investigative website, Bellingcat, reveals their [Petrov and Boshirov] true identities."
The odd thing about this, however, is that in their latest statement released on 22nd November, The Met does not mention the identities Bellingcat has claimed for them. They still refer to the two as Petrov and Boshirov, and although they state that these are aliases, they make no mention of the names Chepiga and Mishkin. I find it odd that these identities have yet to be confirmed or denied officially, but even odder that the BBC went with Bellingcat and not the official investigators.

Tenth: Deputy Assistant Commissioner Haydon stated the following:
"My ambition remains to bring these two individuals, and anybody else involved in this attack to justice through the British Criminal Justice System. I will not give up."
Very difficult to stop oneself bursting out laughing at this point. There was Mr Haydon, taking part in a programme that, with its cast iron claims of guilt against the two suspects making it absolutely impossible for a fair trial to ever take place, saying that his aim is to see justice done. Hmm!!!

Now to the big revelation in the programme - the one that made it worth watching. This was it, from Mrs Corbin, describing the reconstruction of the moment that the two suspects went to the house:
"The Skripals are at home, oblivious to what is happening right outside."
Aha! So they were at home were they? Since this programme was put together with the assistance of The Metropolitan Police, we can therefore assume that it is their official position that the Skripals were at home at 12:00pm and following, before they left some time around 13:30 to go to the City Centre.

There are many interesting things about this, not least of which is that it's the first time that we have been officially told where the Skripals were before they went into town. In the early days of the inquiry, a few appeals were made for information as to what the pair were doing that morning, before their car was seen driving into town at just after 13:30. But that timeline was never completed, and quietly forgotten after the last update, which was on 17th March (last time I looked, even this incomplete timeline was no longer on their website).

So why did the Met, for the first time, come out with this piece of information, and what is its significance?

On the first question, my hunch is that the answer is connected with Mr Skripal's best friend, Ross Cassidy. Here's an extract from an article that appeared in the Mail, just after the police released their timeline of the two suspects back in September:
"Police say Novichok was sprayed on to the front door handle of the Skripal's house the following afternoon between midday and about 1pm. Sergei and Yulia became ill around three hours later.

But Mr Cassidy questions the police timeline. It is his understanding that Sergei and Yulia were at home until 1pm. And he said Mr Skripal's 'heightened state of awareness' would have frustrated any attack in broad daylight."
I believe that Mr Cassidy put a bit of a spanner in the works of the Met's claims with this interview. As I stated back here:
"For the claims of the Metropolitan Police to be true, that these two men were the assassins and that they placed "Novichok" on Mr Skripal's door handle, two things must be shown to be true:

Firstly, the Skripals must have been out between the hours of 12:10 and 13:30.

Secondly, the Skripals must have returned at some point between these two times.

Why so?

Firstly, if the Skripal's were at home before 12:10, the claims collapse since firstly the "assassins" would almost certainly not have targeted them whilst they were at home (Mr Skripal's garage was used as an office, and so the car would be in the drive), but more crucially both Sergei and Yulia could not have both touched the outside door handle.

Secondly, if the Skripals were out at 12:10, but did not return between then and 13:30, again the claims would be proven false since there would be no possible way that they could have touched the door handle."
Yet because Mr Cassidy somehow knew that they were in between 12:00 and 13:00, the BBC could hardly come out on a programme going out to millions and say that they were not there at the time. Why, Mr Cassidy and perhaps some neighbours might have popped up to say that actually they were in. How embarrassing would that be?

To get around this, the BBC employed what you might call a little craft. Prior to the reconstruction section, Mrs Corbin made the following statement, after talking about Yulia leaving Moscow:
"In Salisbury, her father has no idea how much danger he is in."
But this is yet another of the programme's many deceptions. Numerous reports stated that in the weeks prior to the incident, Mr Skripal began to get very nervous and to even change his routine. Apparently, he very much knew that he was in danger, and we can see this very clearly by once again turning to the interview with Ross Cassidy:
"Sergei was very apprehensive. It was as though he knew something was up. Had he been tipped off or heard that things were moving against him back in Russia? One thing is for sure. He was unusually twitchy. He was spooked ...

Something had spooked Sergei in the weeks prior to the attack. He was twitchy, I don't know why, and he even changed his mobile phone."

You might say the precise timings [about when the alleged door handle daubing took place] don't matter. But they do matter because they don't currently make sense.'"
He's dead right, they don't make sense. All the more so when you consider what he had to say about the possibility of a daylight assassination with the Skripals at home:
"However, I was surprised that they said the Novichok was placed on the Sunday lunchtime. I have always thought it was placed on the Saturday afternoon when we were collecting Yulia from Heathrow, or even Saturday night. These guys are professional assassins. It would have been far too brazen for them to have walked down a dead-end cul-de-sac in broad daylight on a Sunday lunchtime. Sergei's house faces up the cul-de-sac. He had a converted garage that he used as his office - this gives a full view of the street. Almost always, Sergei used to open the door to us before we had chance to knock. Whenever we visited, he'd see us approaching [my emphasis]."
So even under normal circumstances, because of the position of the house, Mr Skripal would see people approaching. But factor in that Mr Skripal was "very apprehensive," "unusually twitchy," "spooked," "knew something was up," and "even changed his mobile phone," and now ask yourself these three questions:
  1. What are the chances that two people could have walked up to Mr Skripal's house, in broad daylight, gone right up to the door, whilst the "twitchy" Mr Skripal and his daughter were inside, and sprayed a chemical on the handle, without being noticed?
  2. What are the chances that two highly trained GU assassins would walk up to a door in broad daylight, with people inside the house, and the car in the drive, and spray a chemical which breaks down in damp conditions, onto the door handle in damp conditions, in order to try to kill one of the occupants (apart from anything, the driver car door handle would have been far more targeted)?
  3. And if either of these ridiculously implausible scenarios had hypothetically happened, what are the chances that both of them would have come out of the house and touched the door handle, in order to have got said chemical on their hands?
This, in my view, is the significance of the admission, for the very first time, that the Skripals were at home when the suspects were alleged to have done their deed. This was the real big takeaway from this programme. What it does is effectively relegates the door handle theory to the realm of "crackpot conspiracy theories not to be believed by rational people". The chances of it happening were already low, given that the Skripals went for a drive, a duck feed, a meal and a drink after apparently becoming contaminated. I would say that, thanks to this BBC propaganda show, its plausibility as an explanation just plummeted even further, all the way to freezing point.