Reported nerve agent possibly a hoax in UK town where former Russian spy was poisoned

Written by on September 20, 2018

iStock/Thinkstock(SALISBURY, United Kingdom) — The British public may have reportedly been duped after a couple appeared to fall ill at a restaurant in Salisbury, England, Sunday, sparking fears that the town had once again been exposed to a deadly nerve agent.

“A hoax is likely to be one line of inquiry” after Russian model Anna Shapiro and her husband, Alex King, collapsed at Prezzo restaurant just 350 yards from where a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok in March, the BBC reported.

Shapiro, 30, and King have been released from the hospital after testing negative for traces of the poison, Salisbury Hospital announced in a statement.

Authorities evacuated the restaurant as police and experts in protective clothing arrived to investigate, according to The Guardian newspaper.

There have been a number of false alarms since the attack in March but this incident piqued reporters’ interest when an eyewitness described the “poisoned” woman as a Russian national.

But doubts have been cast over Shapiro’s story after she told British newspaper The Sun that she had been directly targeted by Russian President Vladimir Putin for being a critic of his government.

The article, which has since been removed from the paper’s website, ran with the headline, “Putin tried to kill me with rat poison” and declared the incident “Salisbury Attack No. 2.”

The interview raised eyebrows considering the model’s Twitter account is dominated by fitness routines and dieting tips, not the Kremlin’s usual areas of concern. The Sun declined to comment on whether it paid her for the interview.

Meanwhile, husband King, 42, is a convicted criminal who once conned his way into meeting Prince Charles, according to the BBC.

At a film premiere in 2006, King, a Britich citizen, slipped into a lineup of film stars and shook hands with the royal, claiming it was part of a bet, according to the BBC.

Wiltshire police have not commented on whether the incident was a hoax but told ABC News they could not “rule anything in or out” until they spoke to King. Authorities said they are aware of his whereabouts and are due to interview him Thursday.

The town has once again been thrust back into the spotlight, only a week after Russians Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, who are suspected of poisoning the former Russian spy, said they were no more than “tourists” with an interest in Salisbury Cathedral’s “123-meter spire.”

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