Investigators looking into the mysterious illness of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal believe he may have been poisoned with a rare heavy metal, according to a report from The Sun.
On March 4, 2018, 66-year-old Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury, England, and they are now both in intensive care in a hospital.
There has been widespread speculation that Russia played a hand in their incapacitation, and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it has "echoes" of the Litvinenko case, when a former Russian spy was poisoned in Britain with a radioactive isotope in 2006.
It's not yet clear what caused the Skripals' illness, and Russia has strongly and repeatedly denied any involvement. But The Sun reports that military scientists working on the case believe the pair might have been poisoned with "hybrid" kind of thallium, a hard-to-trace heavy metal.
Sergei Skripal in 2004, in footage obtained by Sky News.
Thallium has historically been used in rat poison, according to MedicineNet, and "is particularly dangerous because compounds containing thallium are colorless, odorless, and tasteless."
Meanwhile, The Daily Mail reports that investigators are considering the possibility that a poison — whatever chemical it was — was sprayed in Skripal's face, hence his rapid deterioration and collapse. There has also been speculation from experts without inside knowledge of the case that it might have been a nerve agent administered in an aerosol.
A Zizzi's restaurant in Salisbury has also been cordoned off while authorities investigate.
According to both The Times and The Sun, MI5 believes the incident was an attempted assassination attempt.
On March 7, 2018, home secretary Amber Rudd is chairing an emergency Cobra meeting to discuss the issue, and the investigation is now being led by counter-terrorism police.