Saturday, May 18

Poisoned Russian ex-spy should be allowed to die



The best friend of Sergei Skripal believes the poisoned double agent and his daughter Yulia are so critically ill they should be allowed to die.

Ross Cassidy, a haulage contractor, met Mr Skripal when he moved in next door in Salisbury in 2010, shortly after the Russian arrived in a spy swap with Moscow.

He told Sky News: Quite frankly, what future have they got? I don’t know the properties of this weapon that was used on them and my guess is they are probably being kept alive by artificial means and what life will they have if they survive?

We’ve already been told they will be severely mentally impaired and I don’t think they would want that. I think death would probably be merciful.

Mr Cassidy got to know Sergei, his wife Lyudmila, his son Alexandr who was known as Sasha, and Yulia.

Mr Cassidy said: “It was a bit unusual having a Russian family there, but they were very friendly and when they bought their own home nearby and moved out we continued our friendship. Sergei’s English was okay, though his wife’s wasn’t and she didn’t mix so much, but Yulia was almost fluent.

We became great pals and I introduced Sergei to a lot of things, including English beer and he introduced me to vodka.

Mr Cassidy, 61, has spent many hours with counter-terror detectives investigating the poisoning, but would not discuss the police operation.

I was aware of his background and I can’t say I approve of treachery, but that was none of my business, he said.

Sergei spent a lot of time out of the country and there were times when I didn’t see him, but he used to call me his English friend. He was very generous and never forgot my birthday, usually buying me an expensive bottle of whisky.

On Saturday 3 March, Mr Cassidy drove Mr Skripal to Heathrow to collect Yulia, who had moved back to Moscow and was visiting her father. It had been snowing and Sergei asked his pal if they could use his four-wheel-drive pick-up truck.

The next day father and daughter were found collapsed in Salisbury city centre after being attacked with the nerve agent novichok.

To say we were shocked is the understatement of the century. I realised from that moment on it was going to be massive and it has occupied every part of our lives.

Mr Cassidy said he had spent so much time with the police and dealing with media inquiries that he had barely considered the serious plight of his friends.

Last week, in a court ruling about the Skripals’ medical needs, a judge quoted the consultant treating them in Salisbury district hospital: The hospital has not been approached by anyone known to the patients to enquire of their welfare.

Mr Cassidy was upset by the suggestion there wasn’t anyone who cared enough to want to go and see the Skripals.

We were also upset that if his family and friends in Russia got to hear about this lack of concern it would cause them extra anguish.

He said: I just want to go back to being the old Ross Cassidy, putting on my boots each morning and going to work, then having a pint at the weekend. But I don’t think I will ever see Sergei and Yulia again, even if they recover.