Parents of Novichok victim ask why UK settled ex-spy in Salisbury

Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on March 4 slumped unconscious on a park bench in the centre of the quiet cathedral city Salisbury in southwest England. (AFP pic)

LONDON: The parents of a British woman who died in an alleged assassination attempt on a Russian double agent criticised Saturday the UK government for settling the ex-spy in the English city Salisbury.

Stan and Caroline Sturgess, whose daughter Dawn died after coming into contact with a nerve agent allegedly used in last year’s poisoning of Sergei Skripal, said they believed British authorities were withholding details of the incident.

“If anyone, I blame the government for putting Skripal in Salisbury,” Stan Sturgess told The Guardian newspaper in the family’s first interview since her death last July.

“I want justice from our own government. What are they hiding? I don’t think they have given us all the facts.”

Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found on March 4 slumped unconscious on a park bench in the centre of the quiet cathedral city Salisbury in southwest England.

Britain and Western allies have accused Russia of carrying out the poisoning using a Soviet-era nerve agent called Novichok, but Moscow has furiously denied any involvement.

The Skripals survived but Sturgess died after her partner gave her a discarded perfume bottle several months later that police think had been used to hold the toxin, and she sprayed it on her skin.

Stan Sturgess said the family have complicated feelings towards Skripal, a former Russian military intelligence colonel who was found guilty of passing state secrets to Britain and sentenced to 13 years in prison in 2006.

He was pardoned by then-president Dmitry Medvedev and released as part of a spy swap with the West in 2010, leading an apparently quiet life in Salisbury until last March.

“I don’t know where Skripal is and I don’t know what I’d do if I met him. He’s still got his daughter,” said Sturgess of the ex-spy, who has not been seen publicly in Britain since the attack.

Caroline Sturgess, Dawn’s mother and a retired civil servant, told The Guardian the former spy’s past made him a more legitimate target than their entirely innocent daughter.

“I can’t take it personally,” she said of the loss.

“It’s sad they ended up in a coma but they weren’t the true victims.

“He [Skripal] took risks — he must have known there was a chance people were still after him.”