A total of 21 people have received medical treatment after falling ill following the poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, police have said.
Kier Pritchard, temporary Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police, said a number of people were taken to hospital after exposure to the nerve agent which has left Mr Skripal and his daughter Yulia fighting for life.
Several of the force’s officers are among those who have been treated, he said.
He told Sky News: “We’ve had multiple officers involved. There’s been around 21 people including the main two index patients – the man and the woman that were located a bench.
“A number of those have been through the hospital treatment process. They’re having blood tests, they’ve having treatment in terms of support and advice provided.”
His remarks are the first confirmation of victims other than the Skripals and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, a Wiltshire Police officer who was among the first to give help to the spy.
Mr Skripal, 66, and his daughter, 33, remain critically ill in intensive care after they were found unconscious on a bench in Salisbury on Sunday afternoon. Detectives believe they were targeted in an assassination attempt.
Mr Bailey is the only police officer who remains in hospital in connection to the poisoning, said Mr Pritchard, who added it was too soon to say if he would make a full recovery.
The Chief Constable said: “We’re going to have to wait to see on that... He’s well, he’s sat up. He is not the Nick that I know but of course he’s receiving a high level of treatment. He’s in the safe hands of the medical professionals.
“But of course he’s very anxious, he’s very concerned. He did his very best on that night.”
He added he was “massively” proud of the officers who put themselves at risk responding to the poisoning.
“All of our staff that attended the incident in Salisbury... they performed the role that police officers do every day up and down the country – limited information, responded to try and protect people and safeguard people we knew were ill,” said Mr Pritchard. “Based on that information I’m massively proud of what Nick did and all of my staff on that night.”
Home Secretary Amber Rudd said earlier on Thursday: “The officer was one of the first responders on Sunday, acting selflessly to help others. The latest update from the hospital is that the officer remains serious but stable and is conscious, talking and engaging.”
Authorities have said there is no wider risk to the public as Britain’s security services hunt a network of highly trained assassins suspected of launching the nerve agent attack.
The sophisticated and brutal method used to target Mr Skripal points towards “either present or past state-sponsored actors”, investigators have told The Independent.
Preliminary enquiries have focused on the former military intelligence colonel as being intended target with his daughter seen as a collateral victim. But the severity of the attack with the use of such a lethal ingredient showed a “quite staggering ruthlessness,” a Whitehall official said.
Police and security agencies have not revealed the type of nerve agent that left the victims critically ill. A source said that it would the toxin would almost certainly have needed a specialist laboratory to manufacture.
The sophistication is seen as another indication that the would-be assassins were likely to have had access to state resources and extensively planned the attack.
Hundreds of detectives, forensic specialists, analysts and intelligence officers from the Metropolitan Police and Wiltshire Police are involved in an investigation to uncover who was behind the attack.