Updated with link to Times article, March 21, & again with additional link & to correct date, March 23
Since we posted a tweet about the seemingly anomalous statements made in a letter to the Times by a senior doctor at Salisbury hospital we’ve seen the issue being raised in many places, most recently on Moon of Alabama.
On March 16 Steven Davies, “Consultant in Emergency Medicine” at Salisbury hospital, wrote the following letter to the Times in response to an article that had appeared there two days earlier.This is the text of the letter:
“Sir, Further to your report (“Poison Exposure Leaves Almost 40 Needing Treatment”, Mar 14), may I clarify that no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve-agent poisoning in Salisbury and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning. Several people have attended the emergency department concerned that they may have been exposed. None had symptoms of poisoning and none has needed treatment. Any blood tests performed have shown no abnormality. No member of the public has been contaminated by the agent involved.
STEPHEN DAVIES, Consultant in Emergency Medicine, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust”
The article he is attempting to correct alleges “nearly 40 people have experienced symptoms related to the Salisbury nerve agent.” This is the section not hidden by the Times’ pay wall:
Nearly 40 people have experienced symptoms related to the Salisbury nerve agent poisoning, it was revealed yesterday, as locals expressed anger about a lack of information from the authorities.
Sergei Skripal, a former Russian double agent who sought refuge in Britain after a spy swap in 2010, and his daughter Yulia are among 38 people who required hospital treatment for poisoning symptoms, Neil Basu, the national head of counterterrorism, revealed. Only the Skripals, who are in a very serious condition, and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who is making good progress, are still in hospital. One person who is not showing symptoms is being seen as an outpatient.
Officials confirmed yesterday that Theresa May said that without a credible response from Russia she would conclude that…”
Davies’s letter completely contradicts the claims attributed in the article to the “national head of counterterrorism” about “38 people who required hospital treatment,” and is clearly intended to do so. This is significant enough. It seems the Times accepted Davies’s correction, or at least published it in a follow-up article on March 16:
Dozens of patients who went to hospital after the Salisbury poisoning were unaffected by the nerve agent, a doctor has revealed.
As Theresa May visited the Wiltshire city and declared it “open for business”, Stephen Davies, a consultant in emergency medicine at the Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, said that no one other than Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey had needed treatment.
But the phrase that puzzled us, and which has apparently been puzzling many others, is “no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve-agent poisoning.”
As a consultant in emergency medicine, Mr Davies would certainly have been involved in assessing and treating the Skripals and any other casualties when they were admitted to Salisbury hospital. He would seem to be in a position to know better than most how many were treated and what they were treated for. In the current situation where there is virtually no solid information available about what happened that day in Salisbury, this letter has assumed huge proportions, which of course may be unwarranted.
This could easily be a detour into nothing very much. But given the hysterical politicisation of this case, and the lies already being told by senior member of the UK government, we can’t afford to simply assume that to be the case.
Taken literally, as we said on Twitter on March 17, Mr Davies’s words “no patients have experienced symptoms of nerve-agent” are a statement that no one has been poisoned with a nerve agent in Salisbury. And the second part of the sentence “and there have only ever been three patients with significant poisoning” therefore, in standard English grammar, conveys the meaning that the three people poisoned were poisoned by something that wasn’t a nerve agent.
We AREN'T claiming to know what Mr Davies meant. He may well have mis-expressed himself. Everyone does. But as they stand his words add another layer of question & contradiction in the #SkripalCase we can’t just ignore.
When will we get answers? pic.twitter.com/sVvzXF1NxO
— OffGuardian (@OffGuardian0) March 19, 2018
It may or may not also be significant that later in the letter Mr Davies refers to “the agent involved”, not the “nerve agent involved.”
Of course we can’t draw conclusions from any of this. That would be wildly premature and irresponsible. It could very well be – as many have suggested – that Mr Davies’s letter was hasty and his meaning unclear. It could be he meant to say no one other than the the unnamed “three” he specifies have “experienced symptoms of nerve agent poisoning.”
Or, of course, it could mean exactly what it literally says. Which would imply the official story was even more falsified or inaccurate than previously thought.
So far as we know Mr Davies hasn’t yet clarified his meaning, so the question remains vague and confused, as does almost every other aspect of this case.