LONDON — The British police officer who was poisoned in a nerve agent attack on a Russian former spy has said that he and his family had to abandon all their belongings because of possible contamination — not just their home and cars, but every item in them, from family mementos to their children’s toys.
“We lost all of our possessions, including the kids’ — everything the kids own, we lost all that,” Detective Sgt. Nick Bailey told the BBC in an interview broadcast on Thursday. It was his first public account of his experiences since the March 4 attack in Salisbury.
“We lost everything,” he said. “It’s been very difficult to come to terms with that.”
British news media have reported that the government will compensate Sergeant Bailey and the other victims of the attack, which used a Soviet-developed Novichok nerve agent, but this has not been officially confirmed.
In all, the attack killed one person and sickened four others, who may have suffered lasting physical harm.
The use of a nerve agent on British soil set off an international uproar, prompting Britain and its allies to impose sanctions on Russia and to expel about 150 Kremlin employees, many of whom were suspected of being spies. Russia expelled a similar number of Western officials in retaliation.
Western officials say the Novichok attack was an attempt to assassinate Sergei V. Skripal, a former officer in Russian military intelligence. In 2006, Russia convicted him of selling secrets to the British and imprisoned him. He was sent to Britain in a spy swap four years later.
British officials say two Russian agents carried out the assassination mission, spraying the deadly substance on the handle of the front door of Mr. Skripal’s house in Salisbury. He and his daughter, Yulia S. Skripal, who was visiting from Russia, came into contact with it and became extremely ill, but they survived.
Two other people were poisoned almost three months later; one of them, Dawn Sturgess, died, while the other, her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley, recovered. Officials say the couple had found and handled a perfume bottle that the Russian agents had used to transport the Novichok before carelessly discarding it.
On the night of March 4, after the Skripals were found unconscious on a park bench but before it was clear what had sickened them, three officers of the Wiltshire Police went to their home to investigate. Sergeant Bailey said he was the first one into the house, meaning he was the one who grasped the door handle.
The officers wore protective suits, including gloves and masks, he told the BBC, and later took them off and bagged them for disposal. He said he did not know how, despite his protective gear, he had made contact with the nerve agent.
Back at the police station, “my pupils were like pinpricks and I was sweaty and hot, and at the time I put that down to being tired and stressed,” Sergeant Bailey said. He went home, and it was not until two days after the Skripals had taken ill that he went to a hospital for treatment.
“Everything was juddering — I was very, very unsteady on my feet,” he said. “My whole body was dripping with sweat.”
After doctors told him that he had been poisoned with a nerve agent, he said, “I was petrified.”
Sergeant Bailey was not affected as severely as the Skripals, and unlike them, he never became comatose. He was released after 16 days in Salisbury District Hospital.
“Physically, I think I’ve bounced back pretty well,” he said. Psychologically, “that’s a different kettle of fish.”