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TOO CROOKED TO LIE STRAIGHT IN BED – BBC TRIES TO RIGHT THE WRONGS OF ITS SKRIPAL STORY

by John Helmer, Moscow 
  @bears_with [1]

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) isn’t likely to have heard the old Australian working-class expression that a man is too crooked to lie straight in bed. It meant that lying and  cheating are in the nature of a deformity, and can’t be operated on or cured.  “The Salisbury Poisonings”, the three-part, three-hour film which concluded its run on Tuesday evening, was composed by individuals like that.

That isn’t news. From the beginning in March 2018, the BBC has been a platform for the British Government’s narrative that Russia, directed by President Vladimir Putin, waged chemical warfare on British soil,  attempting to assassinate Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and then killing  Dawn Sturgess. In May of 2018 – almost three months after the Skripals were attacked on March 4; one month before Sturgess was hospitalised — the corporation broadcast a series of interviews with the medical staff at Salisbury District Hospital attempting [2]to prove that a Russian-made nerve agent called Novichok had been the weapon of the crime.  The BBC broadcaster, Mark Urban —  he admitted later – had been preparing interviews with Skripal by arrangement with the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), and then to have produced his book on the case with the NATO information warfare unit, Bellingcat [3].  In November 2018, the corporation broadcast a fresh hour claiming to be the “inside story [4]” of the Salisbury nerve agent attack.

The corporation then began negotiations on an even longer version of the story. By mid-May 2019 money was committed and other terms agreed for what was initially planned to be “a two-part factual drama [5]”.  Casting followed; filming began in October of that year. The drama was stretched into three parts [6]. The facts were stretched, too.

Unravelling the facts composed by a crooked man trying to lie straight can be a whodunit of the conventional English type. This time, though, the BBC has revealed the  complicated plot of a true crime hatched in the Cabinet Office in London by a character the new film introduces with an untraceable name.

Watch Episode One here [7]. For analysis of the plot, click to read [8].  Episode Two can be viewed here [9].  Episode Three, click [10].

Top: the opening frame of Episode Three [10]: Below: the closing frame.

There are two ways of interpreting what the BBC has done. The first is to compile an inventory of the anomalies, contradictions, improbabilities, impossibilities and falsehoods which are  proved by earlier official statements, government Freedom of Information Act  releases, and press statements of participants and witnesses.  Rob Slane issued [11]the first of these summaries on March 3; click to read and follow the research reporting and commentaries which have continued. A count of mendacities in Episode One by Craig Murray can be read here [12].  These analyses don’t explain why the BBC is trying again with this film, now.

The second method of analysis is forensic. From what has been produced in the new film can be recovered clues, virtual fingerprints, red herrings planted by British government organs for motives of their own.  Finding, tagging then reviewing this evidence reveals, not only a pattern of deception, but also the reason for the deception.

In the ordinary run of things, cases of attempted murder, chemical warfare, and in the case of Dawn Sturgess, manslaughter, are tested in a court of law – first the coroner’s court, then the criminal courts. In the Skripal
case, however, Sergei and Yulia Skripal, the first and obvious witnesses of what happened to them,  are being held beyond the reach of the British courts, incommunicado, in a prison of sorts [13].  In the Sturgess case, a court inquest has been postponed on a variety of pretexts by the Wiltshire coroner and his evidence investigator and police minder. The
two of them have quite stopped the inquest process. Read more [14]

The Skripal-Sturgess case is an exceptional one because it has been kept out of the courts where evidence must be tested to the standard of reasonable doubt or the balance of probabilities. At the same time, the case continues on the front pages of the press, including the BBC.  The new film is evidence of an effort to improve on the parts of the Russian-made assassination narrative which have fallen short of the legal standards; and when that is impossible, to conceal or destroy the evidence.

In the film credits, only one official source has been identified. Called the military advisor, Hamish de Bretton-Gordon is a soldier and a businessman specializing in chemical warfare. He was in the Royal Tank Regiment, a unit in which Skripal’s MI6 handler, Pablo Miller, and MI6 handler at the BBC, Mark Urban, also served. He was also with the British Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Regiment and the CBRN battalion of the NATO Rapid Reaction force, until he retired in 2011.  De Bretton-Gordon then ran a one-man consulting company Secure Bio [15] which operated from an address in Wiltshire until 2015, when it went broke owing £730,004.  He has told [16]the press he went to Syria as a volunteer for western medical organisations and as an “an advisor to several medical groups in Idlib”; that was when the city and region were run by ISIS and Turkish forces [17].

Three weeks before the Salisbury incidents, de Bretton-Gordon volunteered [16]his personal opinion of Putin in Syria. “Putin is parading his military genius and has air and sea bases on the Mediterranean showcasing Russian military hardware. He has not been constrained by the Geneva Convention or rules of war, or any political democratic concerns at home.”  At the time,  de Bretton-Gordon was employed [18]by Avon Rubber of Wiltshire, a British manufacturer of body armour, gas masks, and respirators for the British and US armies and police forces.   

Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, left,  with the Tank Regiment on parade at Buckingham Palace, 2008; centre, television expert on ITV national television, March 2018. Right: De Bretton-Gordon’s employer Avon Rubber displays [19] its US Army respirator model.         

Between the Army, Defence Ministry, Porton Down, MI6, and Wiltshire police commanders  de Bretton-Gorton was a familiar and trusted go-between. He wasn’t the source for this evidence, appearing for the first time in Episode One, which cannot be true:

The film claims that Wiltshire Detective Sergeant Bailey and his two police companions entered the Skripal house late in the evening of March 4, after the attack on the Skripals, by using a key to the front-door; this was said in the film to be a spare key Sergei Skripal had given to a neighbour. This has never been reported before. It is improbable because Skripal was too cautious to allow it; if he trusted anybody, it was Ross Cassidy who wasn’t living next door and he didn’t have a spare key.  Cassidy, as reported in the film, didn’t identify himself to the police as Skripal’s only friend until the day after Bailey had entered the house.

The spare key is the clue to the intention to fix the contradiction created by the backdoor entry; that was the original MI6 version. But MI6 couldn’t solve the problem of getting the Russian assassins to the back door while Skripal was at home inside, so it was arranged that they  sprayed their poison on the front-door handle. Bailey then had to be manoeuvered into gripping the handle and opening the door without smashing it in. The spare key materialised – after two years and three months.  

Episode One also claims that first identification of Sergei Skripal’s espionage career came from  a Google search of his name by a police woman at Bailey’s station.  This is false. Urban for MI6, and official releases by the Wiltshire police commissioner, show that at the point when the Skripals collapsed, there had been a silent 999 telephone call. This was followed by a police check of Skripal’s driving licence in his wallet. The call and the check in the police computer triggered an alert to Skripal’s MI6 handlers; they warned the Cabinet Office in London as they took over command of local police operations. Google is a red herring, a clue diverting attention away from MI6.

In the first episode, CCTV footage is shown at Wiltshire police headquarters revealing the Skripals in the city centre giving bread to a boy to feed ducks.  The existence of this film has not been admitted by the authorities before. Since March 4, no images of the Skripals moving around Salisbury that day have ever been published. But since it is certain the CCTV images exist and remain in police custody, their appearance in the film, and non-disclosure before, will also reveal what happened to the Skripals at the scene of the crime, before they collapsed. If the images showed assassins in the act, then the plot which started miles and hours away at the door-handle would be discredited – the crime would be a very different one; the culprits too. The film ignores this by starting when the Skripals were stiffening, vomiting, then collapsing.  

The boy, the bread and the ducks combine to make another false clue. It creates the impression the Skripals were spreading nerve agent contamination to children, to waterfowl, to the water system of the city. Since later in the episode, the police investigation finds the boy, birds and water unharmed, the CCTV film is misleading.  It is a clue to the BBC’s intention to create a dire threat facing the city. It also launched Tracy Daszkiewicz, Wiltshire public health executive and star of the show, on her mission to save everyone.  That everyone was at first terrified, then saved from something which hadn’t been discovered in the first place is a possibility the heroics of Daszkiewicz are designed to dispel.

“That’s them” – Wiltshire Police Superintendent David Minty (right) tells county public health executive Tracy Daszkiewicz, (left) while Deputy Chief Constable Paul  Mills looks on (off-screen to right). The CCTV footage is of the Skripals in the centre of the bridge, giving a piece of bread to a boy who will toss it to the ducks and swans [20] (Minty says swans [21]; President Donald Trump and the CIA insist ducks [20]).  According to Minty, the time stamp on the CCTV is 1:38.

“They could already be contaminated at this point”, Daszkiewicz is scripted as saying.  This is  the BBC’s link to the official narrative that the Skripals had been poisoned when they turned the door handle of their front-door as they left their house thirty minutes earlier, at about 1 o’clock. The time of their collapse was three hours later at 4:15.

In the film Daszkiewicz orders the tracking of their movements during this interval and the identification of all the contacts they made. But the film omits the obvious evidence Minty and Mills of the Wiltshire police command had already begun viewing – the CCTV footage. The fictional Daszkiewicz missed it but the BBC has left an important clue — though not one the BBC intended. Daszkiewicz is depicted as telling Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills: “We need to find everyone who was near to the Skripals on the CCTV footage, the boy with the bread, onlookers, find out if they are OK.”  Mills doesn’t say he has the CCTV evidence. Instead:   “Mobiles is how we do it.”  Daszkiewicz: “Yeah, okay.” Mills: “It’s not OK. It’s not straightforward, Tracy.” (Min 31:18).

In a few hours the telephone numbers materialise and are presented by Mills to Daszkiewicz.  The BBC reveals thereby that the data had been obtained from the signals intelligence centre, GCHQ. The  ease with which the data were generated by that source is well-known. More secret is the capacity of the British intelligence agencies to record, not only the meta-data of each call but what was said on the mobiles. For the BBC to reveal that Daszkiewicz was put in charge is a mistake revealing how active the intelligence agencies were at the time, and for the entire day, from the moment Sergei Skripal left his house in the morning, using a mobile telephone which, according to press reports, he had switched off.

DCC Mills (right) delivers a sheaf of pages of mobile telephone numbers (centre) to Daszkiewicz (left). “Present for you, mobile numbers, located down to the square metre. Wasn’t easy.”, Mills says (Min 47:07). The elapsed time in the BBC fiction between request and delivery is overnight between Monday evening, March 5, and Tuesday morning, March 6.  

The film also reveals that Skripal himself knew of the telephone surveillance, and was worried about it. In the film (Episode One) Cassidy tells the story to Metropolitan Police detectives that he knew something was troubling Skripal. They were driving to Heathrow Airport on March 3, to pick up Yulia, Cassidy is scripted as saying, when Skripal displayed an old mobile phone instead of his smart one. Why would he do that, Cassidy asked the police? They don’t say. The BBC intended the audience to think Skripal was hinting at Russian surveillance. In fact, Skripal, a professional in that line, was revealing the source of the surveillance he was worried about was not Russian, but British. This clue points to Skripal trying to evade, not GRU but MI6.

Cassidy is shown in the film as telling the Met detectives: “I think we were followed from the airport” (Episode One – Min 51:24). He then describes a black BMW with a man and woman inside. This has never been reported before .In the past Cassidy has said Skripal had told him he had the feeling of being followed;  Skripal may have been referring to British agents, not Russian ones.

The BBC also introduced President Putin through Cassidy. “Putin is going to get me”, Skripal is scripted to tell the detectives through Cassidy as Episode One comes to its climax (Min 51:44). Since March 4, 2018, Cassidy had not remembered Skripal saying this. As advance promotion for the film, he also repeated the claim to the Daily Mail [22].  The headline was a dramatic one.

Source: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/ [22]

Over the two years since the Salisbury incident, Cassidy had been telling reporters Skripal was afraid of something; Skripal didn’t tell him what or who. By mentioning Putin now, MI6 and the British Government are making it appear that Skripal has reason still to be afraid of another attack. That appears to justify why he has been incommunicado and has said nothing at all for a year, Yulia for two years.

If Novichok wasn’t the poison, and contamination wasn’t a genuine threat to the population of Salisbury, then the tracking operation the fictional Daszkiewicz asked for, and the real GCHQ performed, would have been part of a search to find all witnesses of the Skripals who would be in a position to say publicly what they had seen – and stop them doing so. The tracking operation revealed by the BBC was part of a cover-up. Daszkiewicz was camouflage.

The failure of Salisbury Hospital, the Ministry of Defence, and the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down to prove that they had direct evidence of Novichok in the blood samples of the Skripals, Bailey, Sturgess and her companion Charles Rowley, has been documented here [2]. The BBC film turns this process into a character called Timothy Atkins. His appearance in the film is the first public report of his role. But he was a subordinate at the laboratory; the evidence for this is that Nicolas Gent, his superior during the Skripal and Sturgess incident investigations, received the Commander of the British Empire (CBE) award in the Queen’s honours list of June 2018. Atkins and two other laboratory analysts received the lower ranked Order of the British Empire (OBE) after a year’s delay. For details of the Atkins story, read this [8].

When first shown at his Porton Down laboratory (Episode One Mins 35-36) Atkins is depicted requesting his assistant open a secure telephone call with what Atkins called the JSC. That’s a Ministry of Defence (MOD) acronym for the Joint Signals Committee, an MOD unit which is part of the inter-services Joint Intelligence Committee network. Why would a Porton Down analyst be calling an intelligence organisation outside his own chain of command without reporting to his superiors first, and why would the BBC script want this to be known?  The genuine question, not the improbable answer, is a clue to show that Novichok was not discovered at the laboratory from a blood sample, and reported upwards – it came the other way round.

Later, in a briefing at the Wiltshire police operations room, Daszkiewicz is given the role of asking Atkins to explain how the Skripals managed to survive if Novichok was as deadly as Atkins had announced it was. The fictional Atkins gave the answer that paramedics at the scene injected the Skripals with Naxolone. This has never been confirmed before. In other answers to the question of why the fast-acting nerve agent had taken hours before the Skripals succumbed, Atkins is shown as claiming the chemical had been absorbed slowly through the skin, and that the process had been delayed by the cold weather. No biochemist accepts these claims to be genuine. Atkins is the clue in reverse – the Skripals weren’t struck by Novichok, but by an incapacitating nerve agent instead, British made and delivered.

In Episode Three the discovery of the weapon is depicted as occurring on or just after July 5, according to a newspaper dateline shown at Min 27:47. At the Muggleton Road, Amesbury,  apartment of Charles Rowley,  Sturgess’s lover, investigators are shown as finding the “perfume bottle” at Min 26:06; in other words, before the Sturgess family had read the morning newspaper datelined July 5.  Daszkiewicz is then depicted as arriving at the Muggleton Road site to be told by Atkins from Porton Down: “This isn’t out yet. Last night we tested a perfume bottle. It was full of Novichok.”  The BBC makes this appear to have happened between July 4 and 5. In other words, several days before Dawn died on the evening of July 8.

THE BBC DISCOVERY OF THE DELIVERY WEAPON, JULY 4

THE BBC DISCOVERY OF THE WEAPON FILLED WITH NOVICHOK, JULY 5

The claims are false. According to Senior Coroner David Ridley, the local official responsible for investigating the cause of Sturgess’s death, the perfume bottle was not discovered until July 11. The contents were not tested and Novichok identified until “approximately two days later”.

Source: https://drive.google.com/file/ [23]

The BBC lie is a clue to the truth. It reveals that the Sturgess family could not have been told by doctors at Salisbury Hospital that there was a nerve agent in her bloodstream; this had been tested immediately after she was admitted on June 30. Instead, her blood testing revealed other evidence which was not kept secret from the Sturgess family at the time, but is now kept secret from the television audience.

The fabrications of Episode Three also include a scene at the hospital in which a doctor tells Sturgess’s father, mother and sister that an organosphosphate poison “similar to a pesticide” had been detected in the blood samples. “So Dawn — Dawn didn’t take anything herself,” Sturgess’s father says to the doctor. “It wasn’t her fault” (Min 11:01). Doctor: “No, it wasn’t her fault. We are doing everything we can for her.” This is a BBC fabrication.   

Source: https://yadi.sk/i/UbWwla52ZpBWkw [10] 

Daszkiewicz is shown in the film as learning the Novichok news from Superintendent Minty, who telephoned her from police headquarters. She is doing the ironing; her husband and son are shown watching a live television broadcast of the World Cup game between England and Colombia (Min 11:30); the game was played on the afternoon of July 3. The football was still playing when Daszkiewicz arrived at the police headquarters. Minty and Deputy Chief Constable Mills told her that Sturgess had been poisoned by Novichok “four days ago” (Min 13:27). Four days before the World Cup game was June 30 – the day Sturgess and Rowley had fallen ill.  “Four days, and we’re only just finding out about it now?” Daszkiewicz asks. “The assumption was some kind of overdose,” Mills replies. “One of them had been a user” (Min 13:32). “We’re tracing all their movements, closing down everything like we did last time”. Daszkiewicz: “What did we miss, what the fuck did we miss?” (Min 14:07).

The BBC had missed a great deal. It depicted Rowley as having fallen ill almost immediately after Sturgess had been taken to hospital on the morning of June 30. This omits several hours of the day in which Rowley and his friends had taken a drive, gone shopping, then eaten lunch together; during that time Rowley, according to his friends, showed no interest in visiting Sturgess in hospital. The explanation for that is analysed here [14].

There is no explanation in the film for the failure of the police to have found the Novichok bottle at Rowley’s home during the four days independent police records show his home was searched and his friends interviewed, while the police pursued adulterated drugs being sold in the area; for more details, read this [14]. On July 4 the real Wiltshire police issued a “Major Incident Declaration”. “We believe the two patients [Sturgess and Rowley] have fallen ill after using from a contaminated batch of drugs, possibly heroin or crack cocaine,” said Detective Sergeant Erin Martin. Publishing details of the crime was an “unusual step… we are also asking anyone who may have information about this batch of drugs… we just need to know how these people came to fall ill and where the drugs may have been bought from and who they may have been sold to.”

At the same time on the same day, the BBC’s fictional deputy chief constable and superintendent are made to appear to be saying that Sturgess and Rowley had taken Novichok. This was a lie. The clue to where it came from appeared with “Stephen Kemp” at the briefing room (Min 18:39). “Would anyone care to hazard a guess as to what’s happened here?” Kemp asks Mills, Minty and Daszkiewicz. She replies: “Well, we always knew the attackers would have a container for the poison. We just assumed they left with it. But what if they didn’t?” Kemp: “So we are back to square one.” Daszkiewicz: “This isn’t square one, Stephen. This is much, much worse. The first time around we had something to work with. This time we have no idea what’s happened. Or why. Sergei Skripal was a Russian spy. These are two ordinary people” (Min 19:24).  

Left to right: Kemp, Daszkiewicz, Minty. Source: https://yadi.sk/i/UbWwla52ZpBWkw [10] 

The BBC intends to portray a county public health officer telling the representative of the Prime Minister, the national security advisor, and the Cabinet Office that he was clueless.

The Whitehall coordinator, named by the BBC on the cast list as Stephen Kemp and described in the film itself as from the Cabinet Office, was the staff man reporting to Sir Mark Sedwill though Sedwill’s name isn’t mentioned in the film.  In Episode Two Kemp appeared along with a Cabinet Office subordinate called Hannah Mitchell. Mitchell has been traced [24]: the daughter of a Cabinet minister, she trained as a doctor; practiced in east Africa, and in 2016 she publicly attacked the then-health minister Jeremy Hunt as “either dishonest or stupid”.   Hunt was health minister when the Skripal incident occurred; when the Sturgess case became public, he was foreign minister.

On the BBC cast list, Mitchell is not shown as a medical doctor, although the other doctors in the film are tagged [25]as such.

In Episode Two she is portrayed as an interloper from London whose callousness and incompetence are criticized by Daszkiewicz and her allies among the Wiltshire police. They force Mitchell’s recall “so that [Daszkiewicz] can do [her] job properly” (Episode Two Min 26:29).

Kemp cannot be ousted so easily; he is depicted as a constant irritation for the local officials in both Episode Two and Three. The cast list gives Kemp’s name, but he cannot be found in Google searches. In London the Cabinet Office refuses [25]to confirm that Kemp exists.  

Left: “Stephen Kemp” of the Cabinet Office, with Heather Mitchell, also of the Cabinet Office; Episode Two [9]  (Min 10:51); Centre: Heather Mitchell challenges Daszkiewicz on the risks of contamination (Min 14:32). Daszkiewicz wins the challenge and Mitchell is recalled to London, not to be seen in the film again. “Kemp” takes off his jacket and remains a thorn in Daszkiewicz’s side in Episode Three [10] (Min 19:14).

Whether Kemp is a fake or not, his presence in the film pinpoints the real official he reported to in London. That was Sedwill.  An ex-MI6 agent posted in Egypt, Iraq, and Cyprus, he was National Security Advisor in the Cabinet Office from April 2017; then deputy Cabinet Secretary, and acting Cabinet Secretary from June 2018 until he was formally appointed to that post in October 2018. Sedwill now combines this with the security advisor’s post.

The BBC’s plot of conflict between Kemp and Daszkiewicz, fictional though the film version may be, is a clue that someone in Whitehall, not only in Wiltshire, wants to expose Sedwill’s role in the Skripal and Sturgess affair, possibly to undermine him.  After Theresa May was replaced as prime minister by Boris Johnson on July 24, 2019, Sedwill kept the Cabinet Secretary and security chief’s posts. He has continued to advance the anti-Russia line which the Novichok story has represented from the beginning.

 “I suggest we reassure the public by countering the conspiracy theories by getting the facts out there,” Kemp tells Daszkiewicz. There was just one site for the Novichok which had been discovered for the Sturgess and Rowley poisoning, and that was their flat in Amesbury.  “Ha!” Daszkiewicz says. “Is there a problem?” Kemp replies. “The facts?” she retorts. “I still know next to nothing about what really happened here, Stephen. You want to tell the public the city is safe when all they know for sure is that an innocent man and woman are fighting for their lives in hospital. There still could be something else out there” (Min 35:47).

Left: “Steven Kemp”, Whitehall coordinator in Salisbury. Right: Sir Mark Sedwill, Kemp’s superior.

The Cabinet Office and MI6, Sedwill and Sir Alex Younger, the MI6 chief, knew that what Daszkiewciz was telling Kemp was untrue.

That the BBC script portrays their exchanges as it does is a clue to the bureaucratic and political conflict under way in London at the time. The film demonstrates that this was taking place before the day Sturgess died, July 8; and before the Novichok and the perfume bottle weapon  were discovered between July 11 and 14. The bureaucrats and politicians in London were arguing over how much further to go in targeting Putin, the Russian assassins, and their chemical warfare weapon. The Wiltshire locals were arguing that another lockdown, disruption of business and public panic in Salisbury were too high a price to pay.

The BBC film reveals who won that contest in July 2018, and who is winning it still — the Russia warfighting faction led by Sedwill.