As Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia lie critically ill in hospital amid suspicions they have been poisoned by an unknown substance, attention has turned to the rest of the former Russian spy’s family.
It has emerged that Skripal, 66, is a widower. His wife, Liudmila, died in 2012 aged 60. Four years later, his son Alexander, 43, also died.
However there are conflicting reports surrounding the circumstances of their tragic deaths, adding further mystery to a story that has gripped the UK since Skripal was found slumped with his daughter on a bench in Salisbury on Sunday.
According to The Times, the deaths of Alexander and his mother Liudmila are to be considered as part of the Met Police investigation.
Currently in intensive care, Yulia Skripal’s Facebook profile lists her as having graduated from Moscow State Humanities University in 2008 with a degree in Geography.
More recently it is believed the 33-year-old had been working in Moscow at the drinks giant PepsiCo.
According to her profile, she spent six months working at the Holiday Inn in Southampton, leaving in 2014.
Yulia is thought to have travelled to Salisbury from her home in Moscow last week to support her father on what would have been Alexander’s birthday - on 1 March.
The BBC writes that Yulia lived with her parents and brother in Salisbury for several years after 2010, before returning to the Russian capital.
A death certificate seen by the Guardian lists Liudmila’s cause of death was “disseminated endometrial carcinoma”, a type of cancer that begins in the womb. According to the document and her gravestone, she died on 23 October 2012.
It was Yulia who reported her mother’s death to Wiltshire Council’s registry office, claiming to staff that her father was a retired local government planning officer.
Strangely however, a neighbour at the semi-detached family home in Salisbury, told MailOnline: “He used to live with his wife but unfortunately she died in a car accident a while ago.”
There was further confusion when a cleaner at the couple’s home informed the website: “I saw reports on the news that his wife had died in a car crash. That is not true, she died of cancer that she had when they moved to England. And his son died of liver problems, so I don’t know where the car crash idea came from.”
Liudmila is buried in Salisbury, alongside the body of her son Alexander. Both graves remain well-tended with fresh flowers.
Alexander Skripal is reported to have passed away at the age of 43 last July while holidaying in St Petersburg.
BBC Home Affairs Correspondent Tom Symonds tweeted on Tuesday that Alexander died last year while on holiday with his girlfriend after being admitted to hospital with liver failure.
Sergei Skripal’s 43 year old son died last year in St Petersburg while on holiday with his girlfriend after being admitted to hospital with liver failure.— Tom Symonds (@BBCTomSymonds) March 6, 2018
Newsnight cites relatives as claiming the death was “suspicious”, as does the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Serra.
However BBC Russia notes: “People who knew Skripal Jnr argue that his illness was not suspicious.”
The channel also cites sources as inferring Alexander’s death could have been a means for the Russian authorities to determine Skripal’s whereabouts in the UK. It states: “We can assume that if the Russian secret services were trying to find out exactly where Sergei Skripal lived, the story of the repatriation of his son’s body could help them very much in obtaining this information.”
Russian news agency Fontanka reported that Alexander bought tickets on the Sapsan high-speed train from Moscow, arriving on 13 July and leaving two days later.
“He was with a 49-year-old fellow traveller named Anna. It is not known whether the couple left St Petersburg on the planned date since the tickets were reserved in advance, about a month and a half before the trip,” the agency said.
“Records of the death of Alexander Skripal in St Petersburg have not been found. Foreign media reports the body was taken to the UK for burial.”
However, the news agency claims to have records that Alexander planned a trip to see his father in Britain in August 2017, buying a flight ticket on the 8th from Moscow.
The patriarch of the family, Sergei was once a colonel in Russia’s GRU military intelligence service. He was convicted in 2006 in Russia of “high treason in the form of espionage” for passing state secrets to UK intelligence.
He was exchanged in 2010 for Russian spies caught in the west as part of a Cold War-style spy swap on the tarmac of Vienna airport. Sergei was pardoned by then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, in 2010 and given refuge in Britain.