Comment: Fair play to Rob Slane for slugging it out with updates on the British govt's absolute cock-up of an investigation into 'the Skirpal Saga'.

Dawn Sturgess
© Daily Mail
Dawn Sturgess
In my last post on the Salisbury and Amesbury "Novichok" cases, I said that it was my intention to move on from writing on the subject, unless any significant developments arose. That is still my intention, but as something has arisen that I believe is quite significant, I am returning to it in this piece.

Friday 18th October was scheduled to be the date of the Pre-Inquest Review (PIR) into the death of Dawn Sturgess, but it has been adjourned. Inquest adjournments are of course not uncommon, and according to the guidelines set out by the Crown Prosecution Service: "Inquests will, in most cases, remain adjourned whilst criminal proceedings are being considered."

However, not only is this now the fourth adjournment (the others being 18th July 2018, 16th January 2019, and 15th April 2019), but — as far as I have been able to establish — unlike the previous adjournments no new date has been made public.

But there is more. When contacted for details of the postponement and rescheduling, the Coroner's Office responded by saying that a press release had been sent to Counter Terrorism Command (CTC), which is a branch of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS), headed by Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu. However, it seems that even though this press release was sent, CTC does not appear to have released it — at least nothing has appeared in the media regarding it, and there is nothing on the MPS website. All very odd!

Before continuing, I want to make a couple of things clear.

Firstly, I am making no comment about the propriety or impropriety of the fact of the adjournment itself. As stated above, adjournments will often happen "whilst criminal proceedings are being considered" — which they apparently are in this case.

Secondly, I am in no way making any statement about the actions of the Wiltshire coroner. If a press release has been sent to CTC, as they have stated, it seems to me to be a possible signal that CTC/MPS has effectively taken charge of the Inquest itself, or at least the decisions on whether to adjourn, when to reschedule, and who releases this information into the public. Although I must stress that I do not know this, it seems to me to be a distinct possibility that the coroner may well have found himself placed in a somewhat difficult position.

My real concern, however, is that the Inquest, which is surely within the jurisdiction and remit of the coroner, now appears to have been effectively placed under the jurisdiction of CTC/MPS. If so, this is disturbing. Coroners courts are supposed to be independent from interference from other institutions and organisations, as the Ministry of Justice explains:
"A coroner is an independent judicial office holder, appointed by a local authority (council) within the coroner area.

"The costs of providing a local coroner's service are usually met by the local authority for that area. In some areas the local police force employs the coroner's officers. However, the officers' work is always carried out under the authority of the coroner who works independently from both the local authority and the local police force [my emphasis]."
This being the case, it is surely down to the coroner to inform the public of any adjournment, and I am at a loss to see how it can be in the remit of CTC/MPS to do so — not that they even have in this case.

I am afraid that this has a rather unpleasant, yet sadly unsurprising, odour to it. Furthermore, my guess is that what is happening is that the public Inquest into Dawn Sturgess's death is being quietly shelved, and will in due course be replaced by an Inquiry, which will include "Public Interest Immunity", meaning that the evidence presented will remain secret, on the grounds that releasing it would jeopardise national security.

It's worth stating why I believe this is the likely direction. Simply this: that the Metropolitan Police investigators have been utterly unable to link the bottle containing the substance that allegedly poisoned Dawn Sturgess to the Salisbury case. I imagine that their Department for Squaring Circles has been hard at work at it for over a year now, and yet has still to come up with a plausible explanation as to how the bottle they claim was used by Petrov and Boshirov (see below), was found by Charlie Rowley sealed in thick plastic like "bacon wrapper".

At the same time, I imagine that their Department for Threading Camels Through the Eyes of Needles has also come up with a blank as to how this sealed substance somehow contained more impurities than the substance allegedly found on a Salisbury door handle after nearly three weeks of being subject to sun, wind, rain, snow, dust etc. Connecting the two cases would require that the sealed Amesbury substance contained less impurities, not more, than the substance subjected for more than a fortnight to the elements.

And so because they cannot link the two cases through the bottle, not only are they unable to charge Petrov and Boshirov with anything connected to Amesbury, but they are also unable or unwilling to allow a public Inquest into the death of Dawn Sturgess to take place. Questions might be asked.

As for Petrov and Boshirov, it is worth mentioning that one of the most extraordinary things about this whole case is that despite Bellingcat naming them over a year ago as Russian GRU officers, Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin, and despite this being repeated ad nauseum by the media, neither MPS or CPS have ever referred to them by their apparent "real names". The Met's latest reference to them, on 25th September 2019, refers to the possibility of them using aliases, but still does not say what their real names are:
"As previously stated, two men known as 'Alexander Petrov' and 'Ruslan Boshirov' are wanted by UK police after the Crown Prosecution Service authorised charges against the pair, linked to the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey. We believe they were using aliases and European Arrest Warrants and Interpol Red Notices remain in circulation for the two men."
CPS's only statement on the case, says the following:
"Prosecutors from CPS Counter Terrorism Division have considered the evidence and have concluded there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction and it is clearly in the public interest to charge Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who are Russian nationals, with the following offences:"
So the charge is still against Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, not Anatoliy Chepiga and Alexander Mishkin. Interesting, no?

As it happens, I am fairly certain that these two men are Chepiga and Mishkin. But if this is so, why is it that the only interested parties that steadfastly do not refer to them in this way are the ones investigating the case and the ones prosecuting it? I'm not sure of the answer to that, but I suspect that the real reason would reveal more than MPS would like to let on.

Let me just end this piece by stating briefly three reasons why I am unable to trust MPS's investigation into these cases (you can read more detailed explanations of these here).

Firstly, the timeline they released of the Skripals' movements on the afternoon of 4th March 2018 is incorrect. Not only does it not include the very important duck feed, but it states that the pair went to The Bishop's Mill Pub then Zizzis, where they were from 14:20 - 15:35. This is simply false. Multiple witness accounts confirmed that it was the other way around, and I have had it personally confirmed to me that they were in the pub between 15:00 and 15:30.

Secondly, the claim that the Skripals were poisoned at the door handle of Mr Skripal's house by a nerve agent is a scientific impossibility. Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Dean Haydon, claimed that there was enough nerve agent in the (Salisbury) bottle to kill thousands. This is on the basis that just 1 or 2mg is enough to kill. Yet the OPCW claimed that the substance they found nearly three weeks later was "high purity, persistent and resistant to weather conditions." Which means that anyone touching it from 4th to 22nd March should not only have become contaminated, but suffered a pretty quick death. Yet not only did the Skripals not die (and in fact went to a restaurant and pub after allegedly becoming contaminated), but none of the unprotected officers going in and out of the house via the same door on 5th and 6th March, as described by the BBC's Karen Gardner, so much as became contaminated. Let's just say that the place of poisoning is more likely to be about a mile away, shortly before the collapse.

And thirdly, they have not only been sloppy in their public statements and press releases, including statements that suggest that Petrov and Boshirov walked through the gate at Gatwick whilst their plane was in fact still in the air (see here for this and more examples), but also, in my view, negligent on their own terms. The metadata on the images of the two suspects that they released on 5th September 2018, shows that they were downloaded early in May. Also at the beginning of May, so it is claimed, "Novichok" was discovered in the City Stay Hotel in Bow. And so at this point MPS must have known in great detail where these men had been in Salisbury. And yet no appeals were issued, and no searches of the places they had apparently been to took place. This includes Queen Elizabeth Gardens, and the bins at the back of the Cloisters pub (now renamed), which were only searched after Dawn Sturgess passed away, but which were both mooted as possible places where Charlie Rowley picked up a bottle. Shouldn't the search of these Gardens and these bins, which are both well covered by CCTV, along with public appeals, have taken place in May, once it was known that the men had been in the vicinity (if of course they ever had)?

For Dawn's family, sadly it seems that they are continuing to be kept in the dark about what really happened to her. "Weep with those who weep," says Paul in Romans 12, and indeed my heart goes out to them in their desire to find closure and peace.

As for CTC/MPS's handling of the Inquest adjournment, it seems that yet another part of the wall separating various jurisdictions is crumbling before our very eyes, as this country continues its quiet slide down the road towards a National Security State.