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By John Helmer, Moscow 

Nicholas Bailey (lead image) is the detective sergeant of Wiltshire county police whom the British Government says was poisoned by Novichok when he turned the front-door handle of Sergei Skripal’s Salisbury town house on March 4, 2018. Last Friday from London, in a 74-minute interview with Andrew Coulson, former press adviser to former prime minister David Cameron. Bailey gave the longest witness testimony he has given in three years to what happened to Skripal; to himself; and to Dawn Sturgess when, according to British Government statements which began on March 8, 2018, the Kremlin and the Russian military intelligence agency GRU used Novichok in an attempt to kill Skripal.

Bailey’s testimony is evidence, a leading British toxicologist says, that the physiological and cognitive symptoms Bailey describes in detail were not those of a victim of organophosphate poisoning, much less military-grade nerve agent Novichok.  “Basically, every orifice that produces a fluid, or can leak a fluid goes into overdrive,” the source comments. “I think Bailey would remember that.”

Soundtrack and voice analysis by another source indicates that Bailey knows he is lying. “Bailey is a bad actor,” comments a theatre voice coach, “reading from a bad script.” If Bailey is telling the truth now, the sources say, he is talking proof that there was no Novichok then.

Bailey has told his story in public before, briefly. Follow each one of his statements in the book.

British Government prosecutors have made his testimony the basis for their indictment of two Russian agents for “the conspiracy to murder Sergei Skripal; the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey; the use and possession of Novichok; and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to Yulia Skripal and Nick Bailey.”

Left: read the book. At the outset of the case, when British officials could not be sure the Skripals would survive, or if they did, whether they would agree to testify to a Russian assassination plot, Bailey was backup.  After several weeks, when Dawn Sturgess’s death materialised fortuitously in the Salisbury vicinity,  Bailey became superfluous to requirement.  Centre: Sarah Bailey. Right: Andrew Coulson. “I became a crisis consultant after prison”, he advertises himself this year, “and business is booming”.

Bailey left the Wiltshire police late last year; he says he was “medically retired”, but he also says he “requested that process”. Exactly what medical reasons the police doctor reported have not been disclosed, and Bailey doesn’t say himself in his latest interview. He claims he was suffering from psychological injuries.  “My confidence hit rock bottom. I couldn’t be in the [police] environment that caused so much trauma”.

Last December Sarah Bailey, Bailey’s wife with whom he has had marital “strain” he now acknowledges, launched a social media campaign to demand more money than Bailey’s retirement pension. The amount of the pension hasn’t been disclosed, but county and police documents suggest it is no more than £100,000.

Bailey then engaged a Manchester lawyer to threaten to sue the Wiltshire police. Bailey’s representative is Patrick Maguire (right). He had been demanding a £2 million payout by the British Government to compensate Charles Rowley, also an alleged Novichok victim and companion of Dawn Sturgess, allegedly killed by the nerve agent on July 8, 2018. Rowley replaced Maguire and joined the lawyers acting for the Sturgess family. Maguire then moved to the Bailey couple, adding publicity agent Peter Davies. They have amplified their threats in the London press, but so far they have delayed filing their lawsuit in the High Court.  They refuse to say why.

Bailey in the meantime has engaged Chartwell Speakers, an international agency hiring him out for fee-paying speaking engagements.  

The Home Office in London and the Wiltshire police have not responded publicly to Bailey’s campaign. They have dismissed his evidence by ignoring him in the list of “interested persons” named for later witness testimony in the inquest into Sturgess’s death. Bailey hints that there is more to tell than he was prepared to tell the BBC in a Panorama documentary and then last year’s 3-part fictional dramatization. He is now interested to meet the Skripals, he says. “[It would be] interesting to see how they are” (Min 47:49). Like Bailey, Sergei and Yulia Skripal have also been left off the list of witnesses for the Sturgess inquest.

Bailey told Coulson in last Friday’s podcast his purpose now “is not to apportion any blame… there is no criticism of anybody… we were looked after very well” (Min 51-52). Coulson asked him if he felt anger “towards those responsible” (Min 59); Coulson meant Russians; Bailey said no — “anger has never played a part” (Min 59:45).

On the other hand, he reveals that when he was in Salisbury District Hospital’s intensive care unit, in a room nextdoor to Yulia Skripal, “four or five times a day people were coming in with new information “ (Min 45). One of them, he told Coulson, was Prime Minister Theresa May, “who came in on her own, sat and listened [to me]”. In retrospect now, according to Bailey, he says he resents that “other people were in control making decisions about us”. He doesn’t say who, or what decisions they made for him; Coulson didn’t ask.

Coulson was a journalist for Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid press before going to work at Downing Street for Cameron in 2010. He has been indicted for perjury several times; convicted of illegal telephone hacking; and sentenced to 18 months in prison; he was released after five months. He now runs a public relations agency.  He remains close enough to Conservative Party officials to have recruited several for his podcast.  One, Mark Sedwill, was Cabinet Secretary, national security advisor and the official in charge of the Novichok operation under Prime Minister May. He appeared on a podcast with Coulson on February 21 this year. Sedwill, with MI6 chief Alexander Younger, led the anti-Russia faction in Whitehall until their double retirement a year ago.  

Source: https://open.spotify.com/

Coulson’s interview with Bailey runs for 74 minutes; it was broadcast last Friday, June 25.  Audio analysis suggests the two men were in separate locations with different microphone set-ups. The modulation, pitch and other sound features of Bailey’s speech indicate that he was following closely a script or cue sheet, reading prepared remarks rather than responding impromptu to Coulson’s questions.  “Bailey’s modulation was too even to be natural”, a source comments. “Although Bailey  claimed to be remembering highly emotional episodes, his tone of voice doesn’t say so. He repeats phrases, as if he had been rehearsed and was reading.”

A veteran actor and voice coach notes: “there is a big difference when you are talking from your own experience, and when you are talking from a script. In the first you can always hear voice changes – particularly pauses, accented phrases, changes of pitch. When you are speaking naturally from experience, you don’t repeat the same phrases, exactly word for word, as Bailey does when structuring his answers to the questions.”

British toxicologists say that cases of organophosphate poisoning, with rapid lowering of acetylcholinesterase levels, are extremely rare, But the recording of biochemical and physiological symptoms in those cases has been painstaking and widely published, including by the Berlin doctors who treated Alexei Navalny for alleged Novichok poisoning. When Bailey was asked by Coulson how he felt “in those first days in hospital when doctors believed Novichok might well claim his life, he chose the words of Alexei Navalny, the Russian anti-corruption activist who was also poisoned and who said, ‘It doesn’t hurt, it just feels like your life is slowly being taken away from you’” (Min 30-31).

A leading toxicologist who has listened to Bailey’s interview says the Navalny line was scripted. “It seems Bailey has trouble actually describing his symptoms. He keeps referring to ‘absolute crisis’ – to emotion, mental anguish after the event, which he claims to remember very well, but  few physical symptoms he remembers as clearly.”

Bailey told Coulson that in his career as a police detective he spent more than two years on the Wiltshire drugs squad. Professionally, he has been trained to recognise and describe for court a wide variety of indicators of hazardous drugs, illegal drug dealing methods, and drug overdose reactions. In his description of his own symptoms in the first twelve hours after the British government claims he was exposed to Novichok on the evening between March 4 and 5, at the Skripal house, Bailey now says he displayed “pinpoint pupils”. He adds that he was sweating; had hallucinations of being “close to the sun”; with “juddery vision”, as well as “clear vision”. He says he was examined and thoroughly tested at the emergency department of Salisbury hospital more than 12 hours after “exposure”, and given “a clean bill of health”.

After he was admitted again, and placed in the intensive care ward, Bailey says he was fully conscious; he now claims to have perfect recall of the episode, without cognitive impairment at any time.  His wife, he says, visited by his bedside on March 9 and 10. It was only on March 11, Mother’s Day in England, that Bailey now says she and their two daughters were refused permission to visit, and special protective gear was introduced at his bedside.

Bailey returns to Radnor Ward, the intensive care unit of the Salisbury District Hospital, for a reunion with the hospital staff who treated him. The photographs were taken around a bed in the multi-bed intensive care ward, not in the private room Bailey now says he occupied next to Yulia Skripal, with a window (blind drawn) in between – see left of picture. This picture was initially published in a tweet by Bailey and then erased; for details, read this.

The official record made by British government officials, including county police, Defence Ministry experts, and cabinet ministers in London shows that a Russian nerve agent was announced on March 6, and confirmed in the House of Commons on March 8. That day, according to the Home Secretary, then Amber Rudd: “the incident is therefore being treated as attempted murder…I will not comment further on the nature of the nerve agent… I want now to turn to the speculation – of which there has been much – around who was responsible for this most outrageous crime. The use of a nerve agent on UK soil is a brazen and reckless act. This was attempted murder in the most cruel and public way. People are right to want to know who to hold to account. But, if we are to be rigorous in this investigation, we must avoid speculation and allow the police to carry on their investigation.”

Also on March 8, Angus Macpherson, the Conservative Party’s police commissioner for Wiltshire, tweeted: “I am pleased to hear from the Chief Constable that [Detective Sergeant Bailey] was sitting up and talking today.” In Bailey’s fresh account, there was never an instant during his days in hospital when he wasn’t sitting up and talking.

Left to right: then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd; Wiltshire Police Commissioner Angus MacPherson; then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. On March 20, 2018, Johnson gave an interview to the daughter of Boris Nemtsov, the Kremlin oppositionist,  in which he declared “Mr. Putin is in charge, and I'm afraid he cannot escape responsibility and culpability”.

Bailey’s new account of his symptoms is a threat to the official British narrative of a Russian attack with Novichok because the symptoms he describes, and the symptoms he omits to report, are proof Bailey was not exposed to Novichok at all. According to the toxicologist, “basically, every orifice that produces a fluid, or can leak a fluid, goes into overdrive. I think Bailey would remember that, rather than the need to quote Navalny. Even by his own admission, SDH [Salisbury District Hospital] gave him the all-clear on the Monday [March 5].”

“Bailey did not do his homework. He should have used this handy guide to remember his symptoms when he was struck down with the ‘killer nerve agent’. These are identified as muscarinic symptoms in this paper   The more common mnemonic we use that captures the effects of organophosphate poisonings is DUMBELS: D = Defecation/diaphoresis; U = Urination; M = Miosis [pupil constriction]; B = Bronchospasm/bronchorrhea [coughing up mucus as liquid accumulates in the lungs]; E = Emesis [vomiting]; L = Lacrimation; S = Salivation.” Of these, Bailey reports to Coulson only pinpoint pupils and vomiting. He had no difficulty breathing at any time; he did not lapse into delirium, lose consciousness or muscle coordination and control; he remembers no racing pulse, chest pain, or other cardiological symptoms.  After his release from hospital, he remembers no muscle loss. Instead, he says he began to run long distances.

The symptoms Bailey described to Coulson last Friday, followed after he was told by a doctor “Novichok is in your bloodstream” – they are non-physiological. How Bailey can now recall no blood, urine or other test result indicating the nerve agent from March 6, when Porton Down reportedly discovered it in the Skripal blood samples;  or from March 7, when the Metropolitan Police in London say they learned;  or from March 8, when Rudd made her announcement in parliament  – this was not a question Coulson and Bailey considered when they were preparing their podcast script.

“I was dealing with so much emotion”, Bailey now says. “I shut down from it – I couldn’t focus on anything outside, politically” (Min 42-43). This emotional reaction appears to have started after March 10; that is, after Bailey’s wife, doctors, nurses, police and other security officials had been visiting, briefing,  and talking to him for several days without any protective clothing or signs to Bailey himself that he had been contaminated by a deadly nerve agent.  Bailey’s symptoms appear to have followed after his discovery that he had been selected by the British government to represent the Novichok case against the Kremlin. That was announced to parliament by the prime minister on March 12, the day after Bailey’s wife and two daughters were sent home from hospital, and the news had been broken to them that they were being relocated after their belongings were confiscated.

“I needed to figure out where I am at” (Min 56:49), Bailey told Coulson as he described his attempts to resume life with the new home, car, and furnishings he was given. His house is  considerably bigger and more valuable than his old one, according to a source who has visited both.

Bailey in front of his new house and garden.  

But Bailey says he “was grieving for my former self” (Min 57:40).  His difficulty in returning to “the [police] environment that caused so much trauma” is that he knows his evidence doesn’t match the story he is obliged to repeat.

He, his wife, and now Coulson think they haven’t been paid enough to keep telling it.

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