An at-a-glance timeline of the real-world events that played out during the attempt to contain the outbreak of a chemical weapon in Salisbury.
SBS Guide

6 Aug 2020 - 6:28 PM  UPDATED 2 Oct 2020 - 10:39 AM

When Sergei Skripal, former military officer and a double agent who’d assisted MI6, and his daughter Yulia collapsed from exposure to Novichok, a deadly chemical weapon, the entire city was under threat of further contamination.

The Salisbury Poisonings dramatises the events that took place from that fateful day, focusing on the people at the front line of protecting the citizenry, including Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey and Director of Public Health, Tracy Daszkiewicz, and two people who unknowingly came into contact with the source of the lethal nerve agent months later, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley.

Here is a timeline of events that unfolded in Salisbury, as a background to the premiere of The Salisbury Poisonings on SBS and On Demand Monday 24 August.


4 March 2018

Former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia are found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury. Having been retired, Sergei was a resident of Salisbury. Yulia had arrived the day before from Russia to visit him.


6 March 2018

Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey is admitted to hospital. He had been through Sergei Skripal’s house as part of the investigation.


7 March 2018

It’s found that a nerve agent was used to poison the Skripals. Police are now treating the case as attempted murder. 

The military is called in to help the city’s clean-up effort, including by removing potentially contaminated vehicles.



12 March 2018

Prime Minister Theresa May announces to the House of Commons that the nerve agent is of Russian origin, and that Russian government involvement in the attack on the Skripals is ‘highly likely’.

"It is now clear that Mr Skripal and his daughter were poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia. This is part of a group of nerve agents known as ‘Novichok’.

Based on the positive identification of this chemical agent by world-leading experts at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down; our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so; Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations; the Government has concluded that it is highly likely that Russia was responsible for the act against Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Mr Speaker, there are therefore only two plausible explanations for what happened in Salisbury on the 4th of March: Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country; Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others."




14 March 2018

Prime Minister May expels 23 Russian diplomats from the UK.


26 March 2018

Over 20 countries, including the USA, Canada, Germany and France, expel more than 100 Russian officials in the ‘largest collective expulsion of Russian intelligence officers in history’.


30 June 2018

Dawn Sturgess and her partner Charlie Rowley fall ill at Charlie’s flat in Amesbury, just outside Salisbury.


4 July 2018

Tests confirm that Dawn and Charlie were exposed to Novichok.

Novichok: What exactly is it?
Novichok has been identified as the nerve agent that has struck down two people in England. Here's an explainer of what Novichok actually is.


8 July 2018

Dawn Sturgess dies.


1 March 2019

The Ministry of Defence announces that Salisbury is decontaminated after almost a year of military-run clean-up efforts.


4 March 2019

Prime Minister May visits Salisbury on the first anniversary of the attack.


All four episodes of The Salisbury Poisonings are available to stream at SBS On Demand. Start with episode 1 now:


When you're done: Listen to The Salisbury Poisonings creators/writers  Declan Lawn and Adam Patterson talk us through the delicate process of adapting true stories for the screen 




BBC smash-hit drama ‘The Salisbury Poisonings’ is coming soon to SBS and SBS On Demand
‘The Salisbury Poisonings’, about the 2018 chemical weapon attack on a former Russian spy, will premiere in a four-night special event from Monday 24 to Thursday 27 August.