A police officer who was left seriously ill after assisting poisoned ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia has been hailed for his heroics as it was revealed 21 people were being treated for exposure to a nerve agent.
Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey was on Thursday named as the police officer who was first on the scene in Salisbury who was put in intensive care.
Wiltshire Police said the married officer, who joined the force in 2002 and has been commended for his policing, remains in a serious but stable condition and is now sitting and talking.
Acting Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police, Kier Pritchard, who on Thursday visited DS Bailey at Salisbury District Hospital, said the officer was “well-loved”.
Pritchard also updated the total number of people being treated as a result of the poisoning, confirming 21 people in total had been affected.
It comes amid a flurry of activity in Salisbury, where police sealed off the gravestone of Skripal’s wife Liudmila, who was buried in 2012, and the memorial stone of his son, Alexander, who was cremated last year.
Hundreds of investigators, led by counter-terror police, are working to find out who is responsible for what is feared to be a sophisticated plot amid heightened tensions between Britain and Russia.
Earlier on Thursday, Home Secretary Amber Rudd said the use of a chemical weapon on UK soil was a “brazen and reckless act” and the Government stood ready to act as a clearer picture emerged.
Acting Chief Constable Pritchard continued he was “massively proud” of DS Bailey’s “first-class job” in dealing with the incident.
He said: “I’ve known Nick for many years. He’s a great character. He’s a huge presence in Wiltshire Police ... a well-loved, massively dedicated officer.
“He’s clearly receiving high specialist treatment. He’s well, he’s sat up. He’s not the Nick I know but, of course, he is receiving a high level of treatment.”
He added: “Of course he is very anxious, he is very concerned. He did his very best on that night.”
DS Bailey has received an award from the Wiltshire force for working tirelessly to put a rapist behind bars.
Then a detective constable with Salisbury CID, DS Bailey worked over two years to build a case against Arthur Bonner, who sexually assaulted multiple victims over four decades between the early 1970s and 2014.
After Bonner was convicted, the Crown Prosecution Service praised “the way in which [DS Bailey] dealt with the families of the victims and kept the prosecution together during difficult times”.
He received the Wiltshire Police Chief Constable’s Certificate of Excellence in 2016.
Wiltshire Police said in a statement: “We can confirm the Wiltshire officer currently in Salisbury District Hospital is Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey.
“Nick joined Wiltshire Police in 2002.
“Temporary Chief Constable Kier Pritchard visited Nick in hospital today along with his wife. He remains in a serious but stable condition.
“His family has asked for privacy at this time and do not want to speak directly with the media.”
A friend of DS Bailey from Wiltshire Police posted a tribute to his recovering colleague on Twitter.
Sergeant Louis McCoy wrote: “This is Nick, he’s my friend, he’s trending on twitter right now, big shout out to you mate. Let’s get you fit and back! Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey #PoliceFamily #JobLikeNoOther”.
Prime Minister Theresa May said her thoughts are with DS Bailey, adding: “The events of Sunday are a stark reminder, if ever one was needed, of the dangerous situations our emergency services face and the dedication and courage they display every day in order to keep us safe.”
May continued: “I would like to pay tribute to all of the emergency services in Salisbury – those who reacted to the initial call on Sunday and those who continue to respond to this appalling and reckless attack.
“In particular, my thoughts are with Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey – one of the first responders – who remains in a serious condition in hospital.
“We are all thinking of him, his family, friends and colleagues – and the two other victims – at what is an incredibly difficult time.
“The events of Sunday are a stark reminder, if ever one was needed, of the dangerous situations our emergency services face and the dedication and courage they display every day in order to keep us safe.”
This morning Home Secretary Amber Rudd suggested his health was improving.
In an interview with ITV, Rudd said: “I’ve spoken to Mark Rowley this morning. The two targets are still in a very serious condition. The policeman is talking and is engaging, so I’m more optimistic for him. But it is too early to say. This is a nerve agent. We are still treating it as very serious.”
The revelation of the officer’s identity comes as investigators continue to probe the source of the nerve agent attack, which left all three victims in intensive care.
The targets of the attack Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, remain critically ill.