Forget all those conspiracy theories about the “Skripal Hoax”, tales of doorknobs and toxic perfume bottles, “GRU agents” and Salisbury cathedral. Forget too the stories of “Novichok” and “BZ” and the Institute for Statecraft, of Bellingcat, Chepiga and Mishkin.
These attempts to explain or to conceal one of the biggest criminal mysteries of modern times may now be forgotten, in the light of new and definitive evidence from a prime source – the Chief of Nursing for the British Army, Colonel Alison McCourt.
Seemingly imbued with team self-confidence at having pulled off the most successful covert operation since 9/11, Colonel McCourt has outed herself to a Salisbury local radio station as the mystery nursewho first attended to Sergei and Yulia Skripal when they passed out on a bench in The Maltings at 4.15 pm on Sunday 4th March.
Ten months of enquiries as to who this nurse was have yielded nothing, as following the possibly life-saving care Alison McCourt and her daughter Abigail afforded the poor Skripals, they slipped out of sight and mind, like the poisoning victims themselves.
There was a very good reason for this. Had the credentials and position of Nurse McCourt emerged at the time, questions may have been asked; not the right questions of course, but obvious questions such as why someone with Colonel McCourt’s experience had failed to diagnose the symptoms of nerve-agent poisoning so as to warn emergency and hospital staff of the contamination dangers from contact with the patients.
At the time, on Sunday evening, there was however no apparent knowledge that such a nerve agent was responsible, and in fact this was not public knowledge for another 24 hours. The local Salisbury Journal treated it as “the possible first case of Fentanyl poisoning in Salisbury”, going on peoples’ observations of the Skripals, and statements of emergency services.
Colonel Alison McCourt was appointed Chief Nursing Officer of the British Army on 1st February 2018. This followed a CBE for her workin charge of the field hospital set up in Kerry Town in Sierra Leone in October 2014 to fight the Ebola outbreak. She would have been acutely aware of the dangers of infection and contamination, and necessity for great care in approaching people displaying unusual symptoms and incapacitation. While the symptoms and treatment for Ebola and other “biological agents” may be different from those of nerve agents and related chemicals, the similarity in the precautions necessary is similar.
Reflecting this relationship it is no surprise to discover that Porton Down was closely involved in dealing with the Ebola outbreak and in “Operation GRITROCK” as the UK’s campaign in Sierra Leone was called. As commanding officer of this deployment and operation of the “22 Field Hospital”, Lieutenant Colonel McCourt would certainly have worked in close coordination with Porton Down, whose experience in dealing with Ebola dates back more than 40 years, at which time its function was research into Chemical and Biological Weapons, their development and countermeasures.
Nowadays Porton Down is rebadged as the DSTL – Defence Science and Technology Laboratories – and described in benign terms in a Government hand-out – “the truth about Porton Down”. Apparently focused on countering certain rumours and conspiracy theories about its activities, it says (and I must include this!):
Alien Bodies: No aliens, either alive or dead have ever been taken to Porton Down or any other Dstl site.
Cannabis Cultivation: Dstl and its predecessors do not and have never grown cannabis at Porton Down.
But on the subject of this particular conspiracy and the Ebola connection, it says:
“DSTL has an active research programme on Ebola and played an important role in the UK’s support to Sierra Leone during the recent outbreak. DSTL’s scientists provided advice on the biological and physical aspects of the virus, as well as deploying highly skilled research scientists to the diagnostic laboratory at the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Unit.”
Following the success of the campaign by November 2015, the running of the UK facilities in Sierra Leone was taken over by Save the Children, and Colonel McCourt returned to the UK, where:
On promotion to Colonel in Dec 2015 she assumed an appointment in the newly established Senior Health Advisors department and has been the lead for Assurance and now Health Strategy in that area.
Given her home base is at Larkhill, one of a number of military-dominated towns in the “Salisbury Plains” area, that include Tidworth – home of the 4th Royal Tank Regiment, Warminster and Porton, one can assume that one of McCourt’s roles would be as liason between military health facilities at Porton Down and Salisbury District Hospital. In fact one can hardly imagine otherwise. SDH has had a covert relationship with Porton Down since the fifties, and specifically over Porton Down’s Sarin testing program.
Before her deployment in Operation GRITROCK, Alison McCourt had twenty years’ experience running field hospitals with QARANC, including two stints in Southern Iraq, in Bosnia and Kosovo. Interestingly in 2001 she helped set up a joint US-UK hospital in Camp Bondsteel in Kosovo, at the same time as James Le Mesurier of White Helmets notoriety was there setting up a local “security force”.
So what happened? How is it possible that a dedicated nurse as competent and as experienced as Colonel McCourt, awarded the highest distinctions and made Chief Nursing Officer for the British Army, could be engaged in such egregious malpractice?
As McCourt’s true actions on that sunny Sunday afternoon in March remain unrecognised by the media and public, and unacknowledged by Government and its agencies, we need to go over the details of that crucial event, as they were reported by the Times on May 3rd, and accessible on the Police Federation website noted above. This is the relevant extract:
Offering new details on the March 4 attack, a source with knowledge of the case revealed that the first person to respond to the Skripals when they passed out was an off-duty army nurse who had worked on the ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone. The nurse, a commissioned officer who has asked to remain anonymous, treated them before the emergency services arrived, and was vomited on but is not thought to have suffered novichok poisoning.
The treatment of patients thought to have been subject to nerve agents like Sarin and VX is comprehensively described in this document from the Royal Army Medical Corps. The first and most important action of the responder is decontamination of the victim, before making any contact, both to prevent further absorption of the agent by the victim and to prevent any effects on the responder.
Without sufficient protective gear, or self pre-treatment with antidote, the danger to any first responder is enormous. Abigail McCourt’s description of “putting the (victims) in the recovery position”, leave alone giving mouth to mouth, can mean only one thing, as her mother would never have allowed her daughter to be so endangered; she clearly knew there was no danger – at least from exposure to a highly toxic nerve agent.
Lieutenant Colonel McCourt first deployed to Iraq at the very beginning of the US invasion, at a time when there was much talk of Saddam’s chemical and biological weapons, even though they appeared to have largely been destroyed by 2003. Whether she encountered any cases of chemical poisoning at that time is unknown, but as the RAMC journal shows this was an essential aspect of training for soldiers in general. The use of a Combo Pen of antidotes developed at Porton Down for emergency treatment of nerve agent victims also remains an essential part of that training, and of a soldiers’ equipment – even when off-duty.
But let’s not beat about the bush any longer, or get too taken up with speculation on the specifics of the Skripals’ poisoning. The questions of when they were initially poisoned, where and by whom, and with what drugs or chemical agents may never be revealed. What matters for this case is that the UK government’s story, on which multiple punitive actions have been taken, resulting in an unknown number of innocent deaths in Syria and elsewhere, is false on ALL counts.
First, the Government claims the poison contamination was on the Skripals’ doorknob, and it was this that was sampled by the OPCW. The whole story of the GRU agents’ trajectory is about their visit to Sergei Skripal’s house, around midday, and four hours before they were given “treatment” by Chief Nursing Officer McCourt. This is NOT possible. Had the Skripals made skin contact with a lethal nerve toxin like VX (Novichok remains a theory at this point) and survived for four hours with no antidote, then they would certainly have recovered consciousness within days after suitable hospital treatment.
The only alternative explanations for the serious symptoms as described, with Yulia unconscious and apparently needing an emergency tracheotomy, all rule out any possibility of Russian involvement while incriminating part or all of the UK leadership, military and intelligence services in an elaborate conspiracy. By her own admission, Colonel McCourt was a party to this crime, and present in the area where it took place – in Salisbury Maltings shopping centre. The two Russian tourists accused of the attempted murder were long gone however, as Luke Harding notes:
At 1.50pm the suspects were seen at Salisbury station, going through the ticket barriers on their way back to London. Nobody paid them much attention. By the time Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found collapsed on a park bench in the centre of Salisbury later that afternoon, the poisoners were gone.
It won’t matter how many files are destroyed and identities changed in the corridors of GCHQ and Whitehall, in a desperate attempt to disclaim this crime as a rogue operation – as is currently being done by the “Two Eyes”; the game is up.
And perhaps as a final act of penance and service to the nation, Colonel Alison McCourt will come forward to tell “the Nurse’s Tale” – at a full public enquiry into this monstrous crime against humanity, and her co-conspirators will bear the consequences.
Originally published: David Macilwain (American Herald Tribune)