LIKE many people across the region, I settled down this week to watch BBC TV’s The Salisbury Poisonings. It’s always a strange experience watching a drama based on somewhere you know. And particularly when places like Bristol were used for the filming. I found the drama compelling in places, particularly on the human side of the story, and disappointing in others. There were details included that didn’t ring true: the bench the Skripals were found on being the wrong way round; the west country accents; and the strange way Nick Bailey makes a cup of tea.

In the same way that Bristol isn’t Salisbury, so this version of events wasn’t quite the complete picture of what happened either. For those interested in the fuller story, the key drama to watch is not the BBC adaptation, but the battle in the high court slated to take place next month. This is to do with the much-postponed inquest into Dawn Sturgess’ death, and what the scope of this is allowed to be.

Inquests come in different varieties: in a Jamieson Inquest, the scope remains narrow whereas a Middleton Inquest widens the remit to include the role of the state. The latter is what Dawn Sturgess’ family, represented by Michael Mansfield QC, have been pressing for. So far, the coroner has rejected their request, leading to the appeal at the high court next month.

In a ruling in December 2019, the coroner David Ridley argued, ‘why Mr. Skripal was living in Salisbury, Wiltshire and what he was doing insofar as any involvement with UK or other intelligence agencies falls outside the scope of a Jamieson Inquest.’ As a New York Times article in May 2018 revealed, rather than being fully retired, Skripal had travelled extensively, including to Estonia and the Czech Republic, to brief foreign intelligence on Russia. As that article stated, ‘the meetings were almost certainly approved and possibly facilitated by the British authorities’. This doesn’t make the attack on Salisbury any less repulsive, but begs the question as to the likelihood of retribution taking place.

There remain issues, too, as to the specifics around the poisonings themselves. The accepted Sunday afternoon timeline has inconsistencies and gaps, and the finding of the fatal perfume bottle leaves questions as well.

In the TV series, Tracy Daszkiewicz, played by Anne-Marie Duff, wonders whether the perfume bottle found was the one used on the Skripals, before being shut down. But it’s an important question to ask and deserves to be explored.

What feels paramount in all of this is that Dawn Sturgess’ family are allowed to discover the truth behind her tragic and unnecessary death. Whether that happens depends on the appeal ruling next month.