The police officer exposed to the Novichok nerve agent after the Salisbury poisoning has said “normal life for me will probably never be the same” after he was discharged from hospital.
Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey said he has been “overwhelmed” by the support he has received during the “completely” surreal experience.
He 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, 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.”
Meanwhile, the military-grade nerve toxin attack on Skripal and his daughter may have left them with compromised mental capacity and it is unclear whether they will recover, a British judge said on Thursday.
A London court gave permission for blood samples to be taken from the Skripals for examination by chemical weapons inspectors to confirm the conclusion of Britain’s Porton Down military research laboratory.
An unidentified doctor who is treating the Skripals said they were both heavily sedated and unable to communicate, and that it was not possible to assess when or to what extent either may regain mental capacity, according to the court’s ruling.
“The precise effect of their exposure on their long term health remains unclear, albeit medical tests indicate that their mental capacity might be compromised to an unknown and so far unascertained degree,” Judge David Williams said in his ruling.
DS Bailey’s full statement read:
“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.
“Some days we’ve had about 300 messages from officers, the wider police family and the public. The level of support has been unbelievable and I’ve tried to respond to what I can, but I want to say I have really appreciated every single message.
“One thing that has lifted me throughout the last few weeks has been the public support the police service has received during this incident. All the stories of community spirit - from the local businesses providing food and hot drinks to the officers standing for endless hours on the cordons, to the members of the public just showing their support for our work - have been quite simply overwhelming to hear about.
“I want to pay tribute and give my absolute and heartfelt thanks to the staff of Salisbury District Hospital. The care I have received from the medical staff has been simply outstanding from day one - from the man that cleans the floor to the doctors giving the treatment - they have all been absolutely phenomenal. Thank you just doesn’t seem enough and just doesn’t convey the gratitude I feel for what they have done for me.
“I have spent all my time since the incident really focusing on trying to get better and trying not to think about anything else. But as I have begun to feel better, I have become aware of the widespread and enormous attention this whole incident has attracted. I find this really overwhelming - I am just a normal person with a normal life, and I don’t want my wife, children, family or I to be part of that attention. I do hope the public can understand that.
“I want people to focus on the investigation - not the police officer who was unfortunate enough to be caught up in it. I understand why there is attention on me, but all I have done is represent every police officer who goes out there every day and puts their life at risk.
“As for what happens now - we are just taking each day as it comes at the moment.
“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.
“What I need now is time to re-group, recover and most importantly spend time with my loved ones. I do understand and appreciate the attention on this incident, but I would ask people to put themselves in my shoes. I want to respectfully ask the media for privacy for me and my family at this time and for no intrusion into my private life, so that my family and I can try to come to terms with what has happened.
“Thank you so much for all of your support.”