It's not novichok, say police: 'Russian' couple fall ill at Salisbury restaurant with nerve-agent symptoms

09:37 • 17.09.18



A couple fell ill in a Salisbury restaurant last night with symptoms similar to novichok poisoning, sparking panic among diners who were kept in isolation for hours by police who were unsure of the severity of the incident.


The all-clear was given in the early hours of morning as experts determined the nerve agent was not present - but the cordon remained in place at Prezzo, the restaurant at the centre of the drama, as officers continued working to see if a crime had been committed there, the Daily Mail reports.


It was still unclear what had caused the two diners - a man in his 40s and woman in her 30s - to fall ill.  


There's a suggestion that one of the pair are Russian, according to witnesses in the restaurant and a source at the scene.


The fact the restaurant is just 300 yards from Zizzi, where ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia ate the day they were poisoned with novichok, heightened the tensions.


Witnesses to last night's drama told how a female diner was 'hysterical' after discovering her dining partner had collapsed in the Italian restaurant's toilets and was suffering a fit. 


The Italian diner was locked down as police in hazmat suits and face masks dealt with what they termed a “medical incident”.


Officers evacuated the restaurant and took diners to an empty shop, where they were kept for six hours before being given the all-clear.  


The witness who initially phoned 999 said one of those taken ill was a blonde woman in her late twenties.


She told the BBC: “The blonde appeared to be at the table on her own and kept going away, getting up and coming back again.


“When she came back she was hysterical. She called paramedics and the next thing an ambulance turns up and they come rushing in.


“The ill man was found in the toilet after having a fit and they came back in all gowned up with all the white and the masks on.”


A source briefed by the emergency services said last night that the couple were suffering with symptoms consistent with nerve agent poisoning.  


“The ambulance crew at the site took the decision that the symptoms seemed consistent with novichok poisoning which is why the called their colleagues in the police,” they said.


But the source stressed: “The symptoms of novichok poisoning and particular types of narcotic abuse are very similar.” 


Witnesses said panic spread along the high street when police were seen 'covering someone up with a blanket' in the middle of the street.  


After being evacuated and shut away in nearby shops, diners were told they might need to provide a blood sample.


Amanda Newton said she was sitting next to the couple when they became sick. She described the pair as "Russian", but their nationalities have not been confirmed.


It's the latest novichok scare for Salisbury after ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned in March and Dawn Sturgess was killed by the nerve agent in June. 





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