In Part 1 of this series, I stated why I believe the official narrative on the Skripal case does not appear to hold water. Firstly, the nerve agent A-234 (Novichok) can and has been produced outside Russia, in a number of places, thus disproving the claim that it must have come from Russia. Secondly, the fact that the effects experienced by the Skripals — four hours of moving freely around Salisbury, followed by no irreparable damage — do not remotely fit what the scientific literature says about that substance — almost instantaneous death or a short life with irreparable damage to the central nervous system –, makes it highly unlikely that they were indeed poisoned by it. Indeed, the burden of proof is on those making the claims to show how and why the scientific literature was wrong.
Then in Part 2, I mentioned four aspects of the case, which are undoubtedly significant, but which seem to have been ignored or forgotten. I ended that piece by saying that I hoped to discuss what I consider to be an even bigger aspect of the case; something that may well begin to join some dots together.
And this is what I intend to do in this piece. However, before I do, I should start by saying that what I am about to say is speculative. That is not to say that it is not based on facts. It is. It is based on witness testimony that appeared very early on in the case — three days after the poisoning — and which I deem to be credible since it appeared before the case became completely politicised, which is sadly what subsequently happened. I am then using that testimony to construct what I consider to be the best explanation for what the witness described. And so it is very much a theory. One based on facts, but a theory nevertheless. As such it is of course open to challenge.
Let me begin by quoting a significant chunk of the particular witness testimony, which appeared in the Daily Mail on 7th March. I have highlighted what I consider to be the most revealing bits, and then at the end I will explain why I think they are important and what — in my opinion — they most likely imply:
“Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, 33, left his neat, red brick £350,000 semi detached in Salisbury and made their way to Zizzi in the city centre, less than two miles away. The restaurant, in Castle Street, was busy when they arrived, but they declined the seats offered to them at the front, instead selecting ones at the back, close to the kitchen.
They began with a starter of garlic bread to share followed by two glasses of white wine. They ordered from the menu, choosing the 600 calorie risotto pesce with king prawns, mussels and squid rings in a tomato, chilli and white wine sauce.
But within minutes Mr Skripal had become angry, a witness said. ‘I think he was swearing in Russian,’ said the man, who did not want to be named. ‘She was just sitting there quietly, and didn’t really say anything. They were both smartly dressed, she was in a black coat. They were speaking to each other in Russian.’ He said Mr Skripal appeared annoyed that their main course had taken 20 minutes to arrive – and appeared in a hurry to leave.
‘He was going absolutely crazy, I didn’t understand it and I couldn’t understand him. They had not been seen for a little while by the front of house staff, but I think it was more than that. He just wanted his food and to go. He was just shouting and losing his temper. I would have asked him to leave. He just said “I want my food and my bill”. ‘The waiter took him the bill at the same time as the main course, which was unusual. I don’t think they paid all of the bill. I think they were given a discount because he was so angry and agitated. He had to wait about 20 minutes for his main course. I think it was easier for the staff just to give him money to leave as he was so angry. They were sitting by themselves at the back of the restaurant but I think people were pleased when they left. They were only there for about 45 minutes. It was a quick lunch. He just wanted to get out of there. She was silent, perhaps embarrassed.’
He added: ‘He didn’t seem to have to wait long for his food. I noticed him first because they were sitting by themselves, and because he was an older man with a younger woman, and because he was losing his temper. ‘He didn’t seem ill physically, but perhaps mentally ill with the way he was shouting.’
The witness said other than appearing angry, there was no sign that either of them were ill.
‘They weren’t poisoned at Zizzi. I saw the chef prepare the food,’ he said. ‘No one could have sneaked in and added anything to his food there, the kitchen is open. The drinks are made at the bar which is by the door, but I think it is unlikely. No one could get to him.’”
So why is this all so significant?
There are a number of things:
In good health
In the first place, it shows that at the time they were in the restaurant, neither Mr Skripal or Yulia Skripal were displaying any signs of being physically unwell. On the contrary, the witness testifies to the fact that Mr Skripal did not seem at all physically ill, and he also stated that Yulia sat there calmly and quietly.
No signs of any poisoning
Secondly, it shows that at that time, neither of them appeared to be showing any symptoms whatsoever of having already been poisoned. On the contrary, the fact that they ordered and then ate their food is a very strong indication that they hadn’t. If Mr Skripal’s agitated state could be explained by a prior poisoning — by the deadliest nerve agent known to man remember — how likely would it be that he would have felt well enough to order and consume his dish of risotto pesce with king prawns, mussels and squid rings in a tomato, chilli and white wine sauce. Not the kind of food that someone feeling dodgy is likely to wolf down, as he appears to have done.
The agitation must therefore be explained by something else
Thirdly, the obvious conclusion suggested by the two points above is this: Mr Skripal’s agitation had nothing whatsoever to do with him feeling the effects of having already been poisoned. Rather, it was because of something else entirely.
Of course this leads to the question of what it was that caused his agitation. Here we must take the facts, and begin to make suppositions based on them.
The witness’s testimony of Mr Skripal’s behaviour makes it abundantly clear that he was very much in a hurry to leave. And as stated above, this agitation and hurry can have had nothing whatsoever to do with feeling physically unwell from the effects of poisoning, since he displayed no such signs and because he went ahead and ate his food – very quickly it would seem.
Now tell me: if you saw someone in a restaurant getting in a hissy fit over a relatively short wait for his food, angrily demanding that he be served, asking for the bill to be brought at the same time as the main course, wolfing the food down, and generally looking like he was in a hurry to leave, what would you conclude? My guess is that you would conclude that the person was in a hurry because they needed to get somewhere by a certain time. Seems obvious, doesn’t it?
And so it seems to me from Mr Skripal’s behaviour, plus the witness’s impression, that there is a startlingly simple and obvious explanation for what was going on at Zizzis that afternoon: Mr Skripal was in a hurry to eat and to leave, not because he was unwell, not because he was suffering any physical effects of being poisoned by A-234 some four hours previous, but because he needed to be somewhere to meet with someone at a certain time. And where did he have to get to in such a hurry? Why, the park bench in The Maltings, sometime between 3:45 and 4:00pm.
I hear an objection. When I ran this supposition past a friend, they replied by saying that although it all sounds very plausible, how do we know that Mr Skripal was not just generally mentally ill? After all, the witness says that although Mr Skripal didn’t seem physically ill, he was “perhaps mentally ill with the way he was shouting.”
To this, I would respond as follows: firstly, it is well known that he was a frequent visitor to Zizzis, and had this been his normal sort of behaviour, it is likely that he would have exhibited it before and been prevented from entering. But secondly, and far more crucially, is the behaviour of his daughter. According to the witness, she just sat there and said nothing. She made no attempt to calm him down in front of the staff and other diners. Had he been mentally ill, it is likely that she would have made some attempt to explain his behaviour apologetically to the staff. Yet she does not, which suggests that she was well aware of the reason for his agitation, and – like him – just wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible.
And so I submit that the most plausible explanation for Mr Skripal’s agitation, and his seeming hurry to leave, was that he wanted to eat quickly, in order to get to The Maltings, where he had a pre-arranged rendezvous at the now infamous bench.
In the following part, I hope to join some more dots together, this time asking why he might have had a meeting at the bench.