When a sleepy English city rocked by spy mystery

SALISBURY: The picturesque English city of Salisbury was on Tuesday coming to terms with the “intrusion of something rather horrible” after a former Russian spy was found unconscious on a bench, apparently poisoned.
Sergei Skripal, a former colonel in Russian military intelligence, is fighting for his life along with his daughter after they were both found slumped outside The Maltings shopping centre on Sunday.
“It’s an intrusion of something rather horrible into the life of a peaceful town,” Kelvin Inglis, the 56-year-old vicar of the local St Thomas’s Church, said.
Traders on market day were also counting the cost as the normally sleepy medieval city was turned into a major crime scene at the centre of a potentially explosive international incident.
Speculation is rife about the role of the Russian state, after the poisoning of an ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko in London in 2006 was blamed on the Kremlin.
Salisbury businesses were already suffering thanks to another arrival from Russia, the so-called “Beast from the East” storm that brought snow and ice to much of Britain.
“It’s a pain in the backside, after 10 days of closure because of the snow,” said florist Danny, in his 30s, as he set up his stall.
A police cordon cut off access to the pedestrianised area by the unassuming shopping precinct, where the market traders would normally set up shop, while a yellow-and-white tent was erected over the bench.
“This has certainly livened the place up,” said Henry, 66, who runs a seafood stall. — AFP