Remembering the Salisbury Nerve Agent Poisonings Four Years On

As we watch in horror at the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, it is perhaps timely to recall Russian aggression here in the UK four years ago.

On 4th March 2018 Sergei and Yulia Skripal became very seriously ill after being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok. One of the Police officers who attended the incident also became critically ill. Whilst these three victims all ultimately recovered, Dawn Sturgess, who came into contact with the discarded Novichok some weeks later tragically died.

Aside from the human tragedy of the incident, it also caused huge disruption to businesses in Salisbury, with the decontamination process lasting many months. A month after the event eight businesses, including the restaurant and the pub that the Skripals attended, remained closed. More broadly, footfall in the city was estimated to be 40-50% down. All this occurred against a background of chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear incidents being excluded from most insurance policies.

If, prior to 2018, I had presented this as an exercise scenario for one of our clients I think it is safe to say that it would have strained credulity. Both this event, and the current conflict in Ukraine, remind us of the need to be ready to respond to types of disruption that we cannot foresee as well as those that we can relatively easily predict.