Investigators suspect ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned with a rare heavy metal -- and it may have been sprayed in his face

 

  • Ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal may have been poisoned with thallium, a hard-to-trace heavy metal, investigators reportedly suspect.
  • The 66-year-old was found unconscious on a bench with his daughter in Britain on Sunday.
  • There is speculation that poison may have been sprayed in his face.
  • The government is holding an emergency Cobra meeting on Wednesday to discuss the issue.


LONDON — Investigators looking into the mysterious illness of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal believe he may have been poisoned with a rare heavy metal, according to a report from The Sun.

On Sunday night, 66-year-old Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter Yulia were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, England, and they are now both in intensive care in hospital.

There has been widespread speculation that Russia played a hand in their incapacitation, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it has "echoes" of the Litvinenko case, when a former Russian spy was poisoned in Britain with a radioactive isotope in 2006.

It's not yet clear what caused the Skripals' illness, and Russia has strongly and repeatedly denied any involvement. But The Sun reports that military scientists working on the case believe the pair might have been poisoned with "hybrid" kind of thallium, a hard-to-trace heavy metal.

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MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 6, 2018: Pictured in this file image dated August 9, 2006, is retired colonel Sergei Skripal during a hearing at the Moscow District Court. File image/Press Office of Moscow District Military Court/TASS (Photo by TASS\TASS via Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 05: A forensic tent stands over a bench where a man and a women had been found unconcious the previous day, on March 5, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
MOSCOW, RUSSIA - MARCH 6, 2018: Pictured in this file image dated August 9, 2006, is retired colonel Sergei Skripal during a hearing at the Moscow District Court. File image/Press Office of Moscow District Military Court/TASS (Photo by TASS\TASS via Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 05: A forensic tent stands over a bench where a man and a women had been found unconcious the previous day, on March 5, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 05: A forensic tent stands over a bench where a man and woman had been found unconscious the previous day, on March 5, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: A forensic tent stands over a bench where a man and woman had been found unconscious the previous day, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: A general view inside Zizzi Restaurant in town centre, where a man and woman had been found unconscious two days previosly, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: Police officers man a cordon near a forensic tent (not pictured) where a man and woman had been found unconscious two days previosly, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: A man walks past Zizzi Restaurant in town centre, where a man and woman had been found unconscious two days previosly, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: A journalist shows CCTV footage on a mobile phone showing a man and woman who were later found unconscious, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: Police officers stand outside the home of Sergei Skripal after a man and woman were found unconscious in Salisbury town centre two days previously, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A police officer stands on duty after former Russian inteligence officer Sergei Skripal, and a woman were found unconscious on a bench nearby after they had been exposed to an unknown substance, in Salisbury, Britain, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Police officers stand at crime scene tape, as a tent covers a park bench on which former Russian inteligence officer Sergei Skripal, and a woman were found unconscious after they had been exposed to an unknown substance, in Salisbury, Britain, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville
A police car is parked next to crime scene tape, as a tent covers a park bench on which former Russian inteligence officer Sergei Skripal, and a woman were found unconscious after they had been exposed to an unknown substance, in Salisbury, Britain, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville
SALISBURY, ENGLAND - MARCH 06: A police officer stands outside The Mill pub after a man and woman had been found unconscious nearby two days previously, on March 6, 2018 in Salisbury, England. The man is believed to be Sergei Skripal, 66, who was granted refuge in the UK following a 'spy swap' between the US and Russia in 2010. The couple remain critically ill after being exposed to an 'unknown substance'. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Police officers stand next to a squad car next to crime scene tape, as a tent covers a park bench on which former Russian inteligence officer Sergei Skripal, and a woman were found unconscious after they had been exposed to an unknown substance, in Salisbury, Britain, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville
Police officers stand at crime scene tape, as a tent covers a park bench on which former Russian inteligence officer Sergei Skripal, and a woman were found unconscious after they had been exposed to an unknown substance, in Salisbury, Britain, March 6, 2018. REUTERS/Toby Melville
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Thallium has historically been used in rat poison, according to MedicineNet, and "is particularly dangerous because compounds containing thallium are colourless, odourless, and tasteless."

Meanwhile, The Daily Mail reports that investigators are considering the possibility that a poison— whatever chemical it was — was sprayed in Skripal's face, hence his rapid deterioration and collapse. There has also been speculation from experts without inside knowledge of the case that it might have been a nerve agent administered in an aerosol.

A Zizzi's restaurant in Salisbury has also been cordoned off while authorities investigate.

According to both The Times and The Sun, MI5 believes the incident was an attempted assassination attempt.

On Wednesday, home secretary Amber Rudd is chairing an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the issue, and the investigation is now being led by counter-terrorism police.

SEE ALSO: This timeline shows exactly how Sergei Skripal went from spying for Russia to the centre of an attempted assassination storm in Britain

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