Dawn Sturgess

You probably thought the whole Skripal affair was done and dusted. Was it not all three years ago? But the then-coroner Nicholas Ridley could not achieve closure: if you remember there was only one real death in that ‘Novichok’ story, that of Dawn Sturgess – but no coroner could be found who would put their name to her having died of poison, let alone the exotic ‘Novichok’ poison.

She was a homeless drug addict, found dead in a hostel – presumably, she OD’d. This was three months after the Skripal story of March, 2018 in Salisbury and it was twenty miles due North in Amesbury: the story was somehow contrived that left-over Novichok, after it had poisoned the Skripals, reached her. It was all extremely implausible and coroner’s inquests kept getting postponed.

So now the whole case has been transferred from Salisbury to London, in fact to the High Courts of Justice in the Strand, heard by none other than Lady Justice Hallett – yes the very same person who presided over the six- month London bombings 7/7 Enquiry.

It is expected to last about three weeks, and will probably transition from an Inquest into a Public Enquiry – a slightly arcane issue. I suspect this is because LJH wants to be able to adjudicate over the question of Russian guilt, and a coroner’s inquest is by law prohibited from judging such.

An Inquest should merely aim to ascertain how she died and by what means.

IMO the Russian guilt hypothesis was effectively terminated on July 24th 2018 when Charlie Rowley ‘remembered’ that the perfume bottle of Novichok he had found in a refuse bin had an undamaged plastic wrapping ie it had not been used. Yes he was going to give it as a present to his true love. Any theory of Russian guilt from then on had to have the two Russians who came over on March 3rd to Salisbury bring two bottles of perfume containing Novichok, one of which was used to spray the Skripal’s door-handle, and the other which was unused and somehow with the original shop plastic wrapping still intact, thrown into a park bin and somehow remain there for three months until found by Mr Rowley.

Was any madder tale ever concocted? Well never mind, it was good enough for a British journalist.

As expected, today’s hearing was replete with allusions to the Litvinenko case, where a Russian journalist was poisoned in 2006 with polonium 210. Russian guilt was then ‘strongly suspected’ – see my book The Novichok Chronicles, a tale of Two Hoaxes for details on this totally inconclusive case. As a predecessor it is fairly essential for establishing the ‘Let’s blame Russia’ mood.

Why would agents of the Russian state come to Wiltshire, LJH asked? Why indeed? She hopes to find out in this inquest /enquiry. First, she will have to generate some form of narrative whereby Coroner Ridley in Amesbury somehow got it wrong and failed after repeated attempts and so the top British court had to take up the matter years later. She won’t be able to give the real reason – viz no one could find any trace of Novichok in Dawn Sturgess’ body.

Lady Justice Hallett

Mr O’Connor was the barrister advising her in this hearing. The highest concentrations of Novichok were found on the Skripals’ front door handle, he told her. So in that case how about the police who arrived at the Skripals’ house at 5 pm on march 4th, 2018? They were seen happily going in and out of the house via the front door and none of them came down with anything. also, how come the Novichok-on-front-door story only appeared a few weeks later, long after the Zizzi-restaurant story and the car door handle?

There is in this hearing no counsel for the defence, no dissenting voice contra the government’s narrative. She, LJH, is just fed one point of view. She will (with no shadow of doubt) determine Russian guilt, with no-one in that hearing / enquiry to query that viewpoint, even though much of the world does not accept it.

‘Full disclosure’ a Secretary of State spokesperson (on a screen) advised the court, of the relevant Skripal material, could take two years. We were left in the dark as to what there was left of the well-aired Skripal story to disclose, or why it would take so long to dredge up. But, that seems to be why the next hearing of this case will not be until June or July.

We’ll be lucky if the next hearing does not go the same way as the Litvinenko Enquiry – wrapped in secrecy without public access. If so, the reason for that will presumably be the same as it was for the Litvinenko Enquiry – no real evidence, or none that a reporter wouldn’t laugh at. Today’s opening of the Inquest was replete with language of ‘strong probability’ and ‘potentially causative connection’ i.e they’re just guessing. One only wishes that taxpayers would object to the squandering of public funds in this manner.

‘The ‘Let’s blame Russia’ in the stories of Litvinenko, Skripal and Navalny has however been immensely successful in terminating detente, breaking down dialogue, increasing arms expenditure, bolstering NATO and generally extinguishing everyone’s hope for a Europe at peace with itself.

After the 44 year old Dawn Sturgess tragically died, her story became ever linked to the alleged poisonings of Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia aged 33. A sequel to this Novichok drama appeared two years later in the fate of Alexei Navalny aged 44 – allegedly poisoned with Novichok – and his beautiful side-kick Maria Pevchikh aged 33. If you reckon these numbers are significant you must be one of those deranged conspiracy theorists.