Russian spy nerve agent 'plot': Tributes paid to 'courageous' officer Nick Bailey left recovering in hospital as inquiry widens

Martin Coulter
DS Bailey is said to be feeling 'very anxious': Wiltshire Police

Tributes have been paid to the police officer who rushed to the aid of a Russian ex-spy targeted with a nerve agent as he recovers in hospital.

Police thanked well-wishers for their support for Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey as the force's temporary chief constable Kier Pritchard said he was an "amazingly courageous" officer.

Wiltshire Police named the officer earlier in the evening. He is still in a serious condition following the attack in which a chemical weapon was used in an attempt on the lives of Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia.

Chief Constable Pritchard said: "I have just left the bedside of our officer and family in hospital.

Russian spy 'poisoning': Sergei and Yulia Skripal are fighting for life in hospital (PA)

"Conveyed all our thoughts and wishes, an amazingly courageous officer."

He told Sky News DS Bailey, who joined the force in 2002 and was commended in 2016 for his work on a rape investigation, was "well liked, well loved, a massively dedicated officer".

Mr Skripal and his daughter were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury town centre, having fallen into a "catatonic state" after eating out at a nearby Zizzi's restaurant.

Police sealed off the graves of Mr Skripal's late wife, Liudmila, and his son, Alexander, according to AFP.

The force also confirmed a total of 21 people had been treated as a result of the incident.

CC Pritchard revealed: "[DS Bailey] is well, he's sat up. He is not the Nick that I know but of course he's receiving a high level of treatment.

"He's in the safe hands of the medical professionals working in Salisbury District so I'm very confident he's getting the best professional support that he can.

"Of course he's very anxious, he's very concerned. He did his very best on that night."

Prime minister Theresa May also paid homage to DS Bailey, telling ITV News: "I would like to pay tribute to all of the emergency services in Salisbury - those who reacted to the initial call on Sunday and those who continue to respond to this appalling and reckless attack.

"In particular, my thoughts are with Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey - one of the first responders - who remains in a serious condition in hospital.

"We are all thinking of him, his family, friends and colleagues - and the two other victims - at what is an incredibly difficult time.

"The events of Sunday are a stark reminder, if ever one was needed, of the dangerous situations our emergency services face and the dedication and courage they display every day in order to keep us safe."

The hero officer's neighbours also told of their shock after he was rushed to hospital.

One 60-year-old neighbour, who asked not to be named, said: "When I found out I get shocked and immediately worried for him and his family.

"I hope he makes a full recovery and he and his family can move on from this.

"I think what's actually happened is dreadful. I'm shocked by it and when I found out it was one of my neighbours who I have spent time with and met socially I was even more shocked.

"My first thoughts were for him and his family to recover and get back to normal. When you see something like this as close as your own back doorstep you feel for people and wish them well."

Forensic scientists were seen bringing in equipment to scour the former double agent’s semi-detached home in a cul-de-sac, as hundreds of detectives and analysts worked on reconstructing their movements prior to the attack.

Forensic specialists outside Mr Skripal's house (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Russia has denied responsibility for the attack, which comes seven years after Mr Skripal was released from the country as part of a spy swap with the US.

He had been convicted in his home country in 2006 for passing state secrets to MI6.

Additional reporting by the Press Association