A police officer who needed intensive care after responding to the nerve agent attack on a Russian spy has said he does not consider himself a hero and he was “merely doing his job”.
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey was “seriously ill” but was able to speak. His long-term prognosis was unclear on Saturday afternoon.
DS Bailey, who joined Wiltshire Police in 2002, was one of the first to respond after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal were found unconscious in Salisbury city centre just after 4pm on Sunday.
He attended the bench where the pair, aged 66 and 33, were slumped and later went to Mr Skripal’s house.
DS Bailey is among 21 people who received medical treatment following exposure to the nerve agent. Only DS Bailey and the Skripals, who are both critically ill, remain in hospital.
A statement released by Wiltshire Police said: “Nick would like us to say on his behalf that he and his family are hugely grateful for all the messages of support from the public, and colleagues from the police family. People have been so kind and he has expressed that he will never forget that kindness.
“He also wishes to say that he was part of a group of officers and other emergency service colleagues who dealt with the initial incident. He wants to say that he does not consider himself a ‘hero’, he states he was merely doing his job – a job he loves and is immensely proud of – just like all of his other dedicated colleagues do, day in-day out, in order to protect the public and keep people safe.”
Follow a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee on Saturday, the Home Secretary said 200 pieces of evidence including “huge amounts” of CCTV footage were being examined as part of the “painstaking, detailed” investigation.
Amber Rudd said 240 witnesses had been identified and 250 officers from eight out of 11 of the country’s counter-terrorism units were handling the case with “speed and professionalism”.
“This is a serious, substantial investigation. We need to give the police and the investigators the space to get on with that,” she added.
The Home Office has said it knows what kind of nerve agent was used, but has refuse to disclose the information.
Wiltshire Police’s temporary Chief Constable Kier Pitchard visited DS Bailey at Salisbury District Hospital on Thursday and said it was too early to tell if he would make a full recovery.
He paid tribute to the “well-liked, well-loved” and ”massively dedicated officer”, who was formally commended in 2016 for work which led to a serial rapist being jailed.
T/Chief Constable Pritchard said: “He’s well, he’s sat up. He is not the Nick that I know but of course he’s receiving a high level of treatment. He’s in the safe hands of the medical professionals working in Salisbury District so I’m very confident he’s getting the best professional support that he can.
“Of course he’s very anxious, he’s very concerned. He did his very best on that night.”
His praise was echoed by Prime Minister Theresa May, who said the events served as a “stark reminder” of the dangers faced by emergency staff.
DS Bailey’s statement comes as troops descended on Salisbury for a second day, with their focus turning to an ambulance station.
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A military convoy arrived at the small building close to Salisbury District Hospital and police cordoned off a road.
Soldiers wearing grey hazmat suits and masks covered a potentially contaminated ambulance with a silver tarpaulin and prepared to move it from the scene.
Meanwhile, investigators were active near the grave of Mr Skripal’s wife Liudmila in Salisbury’s London Road cemetery.
Officers erected a large white tent close to where she was buried in 2012. Police vehicles and an ambulance incident support unit could also been seen.
Scotland Yard said it was not exhuming a body, but would not comment further on the investigation, saying only the tent was in place for “operational reasons”.
Entrances to the cemetery remained sealed off by police cordons and a blue and white forensic tent was also seen over the memorial stone of Mr Skripal’s son Alexander, who was cremated last year.
Suspicion is mounting that Russia attempted to kill the former intelligence officer and his daughter as an act of revenge against Mr Skripal, who was convicted in 2006 of selling state secrets to MI6. He was later released as part of a spy swap with the US.
The Kremlin has denied responsibility and British ministers have urged caution over apportioning blame until the facts become clear.
Defence minister Tobias Ellwood said the military’s presence reflected the “seriousness” of the situation, adding: “We mustn’t get ahead of ourselves but we must have a robust response and it’s something that we’ll be discussing with our Nato partners and with the forthcoming summit in Brussels in July.
“Some big questions arise as to how do you stand up to a clandestine and sinister attack deliberately done to play havoc in our society?”
Meanwhile Salisbury’s MP John Glen, also a Government minister, attempted to reassure his constituents that a “whole range of tools are at our disposal” once it is established who was behind the incident.
“The Government will not be acting precipitously in response to what has happened. Now is the time for cool heads and a rational examination of the facts,” he said.
“Once these are established, then and only then, will an appropriate and proportionate course of action be taken. A whole range of tools are at our disposal depending on who has perpetrated this act, including a number of financial and economic levers.”