British police have reportedly identified two suspects in the nerve agent poisonings that left one person dead and three others injured. The suspects were identified after UK police combed through “months” of surveillance footage at British airports, as well as security camera footage from around Salisbury.
Both CNN and the BBC refer to an unnamed police source with knowledge of the case, but British authorities have yet to release an official statement. That source says that the two Russian suspects used aliases to leave the UK on commercial flights. The two suspects are reportedly “fresh identities,” not known to British intelligence agencies and were identified using facial recognition technology.
“Investigators believe they have identified the suspected perpetrators of the Novichok attack through CCTV and have cross-checked this with records of people who entered the country around that time,” the unnamed police source told Britain’s Press Association.
“They [the investigators] are sure they [the suspects] are Russian,” the source said.
Former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were both poisoned using Novichok, a Soviet-era nerve agent, on March 4, 2018. They survived and were released from the hospital after intensive treatment. More recently, Dawn Sturgess and her partner Charlie Rowley became severely ill after they came into contact with the nerve agent on June 30th. Sturgess died eight days after being exposed to the Novichok and Rowley is still in the hospital. While it’s believed that the Skripals were intentionally poisoned, authorities say that the poisoning of Sturgess and Rowley was probably accidental.
Police found a bottle containing Novichock at Rowley’s home in Amesbury, not far from Salisbury. It’s still unclear where exactly Rowley found the tainted bottle, which is reportedly a bottle of perfume. It’s believed that Sturgess may have sprayed the “perfume” directly onto her skin before she died.
Russian authorities have denied that the poisonings are state-sanctioned terror attacks. Russian media has floated nearly every conceivable reason for the poisonings, including the idea that it was perpetrated by British authorities to make the Russians look bad—a so-called “false flag” attack. Domestic audiences in Russia are getting a different message, however. Russian state TV warned that poisonings like these are what happen to “traitors.”
The Russian Embassy in the UK, known for its sarcastic posturing on Twitter, has not yet responded to the reports. But you can bet that whenever they finally do, it’ll be snarky as hell.
Update 12:55pm: More details are slowly leaking out about the suspects, including a report from CNN that news of the suspects departing the UK, “was revealed in a coded Russian message to Moscow sent after the attack, which was intercepted by a British base in Cyprus.”
British police still haven’t issued a public statement about the suspects.