When the staff of G&T’s greeting card shop in The Maltings, Salisbury’s closed up last Sunday afternoon at 4pm and left the store by the back door, little did they know that only 15 minutes later former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia would be found slumped unconscious on the bench right outside the shop, having been exposed to a highly poisonous nerve agent.
The highly unusual circumstances as well as the potency of the poison has caused the area surrounding the scene of discovery to be cordoned off for the entire week, with this enclave in the quiet city of Salisbury being the epicentre of a major global event.
This has meant that G&T’s and its retail neighbours have been closed with no one granted entry while investigators in anti-contamination suits and police have been the only ones allowed anywhere near.
As Gary Newman, owner of G&T’s, which comprises seven shops in Hampshire and Dorset, said: “It has been a very expensive Mother’s Day for me!” with reference to the shop being fully stocked with Mother’s Day cards and gifts, but was unable to trade for the run-up to the event.
“It has been weird seeing the shop featured on the news, but we have not been allowed to go anywhere near it,” said Gary. “It is not the sort of fame I would have chosen, but you have to look at the bigger picture. I fully appreciate the need for the thorough investigation and feel grateful that none of my staff are at risk.”
Gary, who has owned the business for 20 years, has been pursued by national press, with journalists turning up at his home in hope of gleaning some extra information. “I have told them that we know less than them. All I want is for the investigations to be over so we can get trading again.”
Adding to the greeting card industry connection, it was Megan Yates-Hartnell, the niece of card agent, Rosie Trow who took the 999 call when the Skripals were discovered on the bench outside G&T’s.