Business owners in Salisbury are expressing concern that the nerve gas attack is causing people to avoid the city and having a disastrous impact on trade.
Some stores around the Maltings shopping centre remain closed as police investigate the attempted murder of Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, and businesses that have remained open say footfall has plummeted.
The problem has prompted the Salisbury Journal and Salisbury Business Improvement District to launch a “Salisbury is open” campaign.
Danny Styles, who has a fruit and veg stall in the Maltings, said business had been terrible. “The day after it happened all was normal,” he said. “But as soon as they mentioned nerve agent, business has completely dropped off. People are scared and don’t think it’s worth the risk to come in. I lost £180 on Thursday and £140 on Friday.”
— steven morris (@stevenmorris20) March 13, 2018
Styles’s stall would normally be within the area the police have cordoned off, but he has moved around the corner into a slightly quieter spot to keep trading.
“First we had the snow here, then the Russian spy. Hopefully the sun will come out soon and the spies will clear off and we can get on with our lives.”
Annette Mansfield, who works at Stonehenge Tailoring in the Maltings, said the message that Salisbury was functioning needed to be heard. “It’s been dreadful. People don’t know which bits are open and which are closed,” she said.
Judy Bristowe, who works on the Swan Rescue Sanctuary stall in the Maltings, brought along a spotted eagle owl called Dill to try to cheer people up and generate interest.
— steven morris (@stevenmorris20) March 13, 2018
“It’s so bad, there’s no footfall,” she said. “I thought I’d bring Dill down here, which always gets a bit of attention, just to let people know we’re still here. I think it’s going to take us quite a while before people realise it’s safe to come back in.”
Bill Browne, publisher of the Salisbury Journal, said: “This is having a very real impact on those who depend on trade in this town for their livelihoods. It is still perfectly possible to shop, eat, meet friends, do business, go to the gym, get a taxi, visit the cathedral and so much more.”
The Zizzi restaurant, where the Skripals ate before the attack, remains cordoned off.
Zizzi issued a statement expressing shock and sadness. “Our thoughts are with the victims, their friends and family, and everyone in the Salisbury community who has been affected by this attack, as well as the police and emergency services who have been working tirelessly across the last seven days,” it said.
Police have confirmed that Skripal and his daughter were in Salisbury city centre by 1.30pm. It is not known if they walked from his home or whether they drove or were driven in.
Between 1.30pm and around 4pm
Skripal and his daughter strolled around Salisbury and visited the Zizzi restaurant on Castle Street and the nearby Mill pub. They are believed to have been in Zizzi for about 40 minutes from 2.30pm.
A CCTV camera at Snap Fitness in Market Walk captured two people initially thought to be Skripal and his daughter. The woman appeared to be carrying a red handbag. Later it became clear the pair were probably not the Russian and his daughter. Police have been keen to speak to the couple.
The same camera caught personal trainer Freya Church. She turned left out of the gym and in front of her saw Skripal and the woman on a bench at the Maltings shopping centre. She said the woman had passed out and the man was behaving strangely. Church walked on.
Footage that emerged on Friday from a local business showed that people were still strolling casually through Market Walk.
A member of the public dialled 999. The Friday footage shows an emergency vehicle racing through the pedestrianised arcade shortly after 4.15pm. A paramedic also ran through. Police and paramedics worked on the couple at the scene for almost an hour in ordinary uniforms.
The woman was airlifted to hospital; Skripal was taken by road.
Images taken by a passerby show that officers were still clearly unaware of the severity of the situation. They did not have specialist protective clothing and members of the public also strolled nearby.
Police told Salisbury Journal they were investigating a possible drug-related incident. At about this time officers identified Skripal and his daughter and by Sunday evening they were at his home – in normal uniform or street clothes. At some point DS Nick Bailey, now seriously ill in hospital, visited the Skripal house, but it is not known where he was contaminated.
Officers donned protective suits to examine the bench and surrounding areas.
Officers were hosing themselves down. It was not until the next day that a major incident was declared.
“Zizzi Salisbury remains closed as part of the ongoing police investigation. Our priority is to ensure the wellbeing of our team and support our Zizzi Salisbury customers, as well as continuing to do everything we can to help the police.
“We are fully supporting our Zizzi team members, and our team will continue to receive full payment while the Salisbury restaurant is closed.”