Following the Skripal poisonings and the death of Dawn Sturgess, locals are adjusting to a new normal in the old cathedral city

The identification last Wednesday of the two Russian agents thought responsible for the poisonings in Salisbury opened about as many questions as it closed. Six months of forensic police work, involving the study of thousands of hours of CCTV, had produced apparently incontrovertible evidence that the men identified as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov had not taken their weekend break in the Wiltshire city simply to admire the Cathedral’s medieval spire. But gaps in the narrative persisted. What were their real names and identities? Why exactly had they disposed of their doctored Nina Ricci “Premier Jour” perfume bottle so casually? And why had they – the assassins who came in on the replacement bus service – trusted their strategy to the Sunday timetable of the Great Western Railway?

Though the photographs that revealed the movements of the un-extraditable duo represented a major step forward in unravelling the crime, in some ways they confirmed the sense at home, and certainly abroad, that 2018 is shaping to be one of the more surreal years in Britain’s island history. If you were to drop a Google pin on the place where events most obviously disappeared down a rabbit hole, you might zoom in to the few square yards of grass outside Greggs bakery and the chemist Superdrug in the Maltings shopping centre in Salisbury.

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