The search for clues to the identity of the would-be assassins who attacked Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter has widened to Dorset, as police removed a tow truck linked to the car driven by the pair.
Officers in gas masks and chemical protection suits descended on a quiet street in the small town of Gillingham, a 45-minute drive from Salisbury, the scene of the attack.
They spent the morning preparing to remove a tow truck belonging to Ashley Wood Motors, at least one of whose vehicles has already been seized for examination after it was thought to have been used to tow Mr Skripal’s red-BMW from the Sainsbury’s car park, where they left it before succumbing to the effects of the nerve agent Novichok.
The latest operation suggests there is confusion about which tow truck came into contact with Mr Skripal’s car, or that this one was used to move a car bought by him for his daughter Yulia as a run around for her visits to Salisbury.
It emerged that a police patrol had carried out a brief inspection of the tow truck, parked in Hyde Road, three days ago but the vehicle was left where it was.
It was only early Wednesday morning that officers returned, covered it in plastic sheeting and began loading it onto an army low loader.
A teenage boy living close to the scene said: “That truck has been parked there for a week and the police came and looked at it three days ago, but left it.
"People have been walking past it, touching it and stuff, so if there’s a danger from it then it’s a bit late to take it away now.”
Jane McQueen, 69, who lives a few doors down from the scene of Wednesday’s operation, said: “The police began sealing off the road last night and returned this morning with lots of equipment. A friend of mine was told it’s linked to the poison attack in Salisbury and that’s quite worrying frankly.
“The vehicle has been there for a while and you can see the Ashley Wood logo on the side. It does make you think. When it was in Salisbury it was already on our doorstep, now it’s here in little old Dorset.
“You expect these events to happen in the big cities, like London, not here.”
Jack Langley, 26, a landscape gardener, said police told all residents to move their cars on Tuesday night - and the only one left on Wednesday morning was an Ashley Wood recovery van.
"I watched them set up to army tents, and one ambulance tent,' he said. ‘'There were two ambulances, some unmarked police cars and about 14 soldiers and about the same number of police officers.
"It was about 10.30am , they set everything up around the Ashley Wood recovery truck. I am told it was involved in the recovery of one of the cars belonging to the Russians who were poisoned.
"It is very concerning, it has been parked there for days and they wait until now to do something. If it is contaminated, it is worrying.
“But they seem to be focusing more on the house now too. There have been people going in and out all day.”