The police officer exposed to the Novichok nerve agent after the Salisbury poisoning has been discharged from hospital, but said: “Normal life for me will probably never be the same.”
Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey was taken to Salisbury District Hospital after responding to the attack on former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal, 66, and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, on March 4.
At a press conference outside the hospital, Cara Charles-Barks, chief executive of Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, said he was discharged on Thursday afternoon after his condition improved.
The Skripals remain in a critical but stable condition, while 48 other people have been assessed after seeking advice in relation to the incident, she told reporters.
In a statement read by Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard, DS Bailey, said: “People ask me how I am feeling – but there are really no words to explain how I feel right now.
“Surreal is the word that keeps cropping up – and it really has been completely surreal.
“I have been so very overwhelmed by the support, cards and messages I have received – everyone has been so incredible.”
His wife, Sarah, said in a statement: “Nick doesn’t like the term hero, but he has always been a hero to me and our children.”
DS Bailey insisted “I am just a normal person with a normal life”, but added: “I recognise that ‘normal’ life for me will probably never be the same – and Sarah and I now need to focus on finding a new normal for us and for our children.”
His discharge came as a Court of Protection judge gave doctors permission to take blood from the Skripals and provide samples to chemical weapons experts.
Mr Justice Williams said he had been asked to make decisions because Mr and Ms Skripal were unconscious and therefore unable to give their consent to blood samples being taken or tested.
Meanwhile, Theresa May continued to press for a united statement from the European Union condemning Russia for the attack.
Foreign ministers of the 28-nation bloc issued a statement on Monday voicing “unqualified solidarity” with the UK, but stopping short of pointing the finger of blame at Moscow.
Arriving in Brussels for a summit of the European Council, Mrs May said she would brief fellow leaders on the “brazen and reckless” use of chemical weapons on European soil and leave no doubt that she sees it as part of a pattern of Russian aggression which requires a united response.
In London, Russia’s ambassador Alexander Yakovenko condemned Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s comparison between Vladimir Putin hosting this summer’s World Cup with Hitler’s 1936 Olympics as an “insult” to the Russian people.
Mr Yakovenko demanded evidence for Britain’s allegation that Russia was behind the Salisbury attack, saying official statements on the poisoning had been “wild” and the UK had “built its official position on pure assumptions”.