A Sussex woman was sitting next to one of the diners taken ill in a Novichok scare in Salisbury yesterday evening.
Police initially declared a ‘major incident’ at a Prezzo restaurant after two people, a man in his 40s and a woman in her 30s, became unwell, due to ‘concerns the pair had been exposed to an unknown substance’.
Amanda Worne, a mum of four who uses a wheelchair since she was involved in a bicycle accident in Bury, said she asked to sit on a couch to the back of the Prezzo restaurant, occupied by a blonde woman, who appeared agitated.
She said the lady, who she was later told was Russian, got up numerous times to go upstairs, where her male friend was, perhaps in the toilets.
Amanda said: “Then she came back down and started crying, ‘Oh my god, my friend, he’s not well, he’s having a fit’.
“Next thing the ambulance had been called and the paramedics came up.
“They had masks, suits, gloves, everything and we thought, oh my god, this looks quite serious.
“At that moment the manager came up and said, ‘can you leave, can you get away from this table’.”
The restaurant was promptly evacuated and Amanda called police from the street outside to check what was happening.
Emergency vehicles descended on the restaurant and diners were then told the later retracted statement that Novichok was believed to be the cause.
“The main officer in charge said, ‘We need to inform you of our investigation, we have two Russians, both showing very similar signs to the nerve agent Novichok.
“We may need to make you go to hospital to do some blood tests.’”
Amanda, her friend and the other Prezzo diners were kept nearby and not allowed to leave for several hours, first waiting in a disused shop, and then a pub over the road so people could use the toilets.
During the wait, she said the group were told a third person had become infected and public health authorities would be involved.
“I asked, what about us? I touched this lady. They just said, ‘we’re happy with how you look’. I felt a little bit uncomfortable.
“They didn’t check us over and just do our vitals.”
At around 1.30am, having waited since about 6.45pm, Amanda said the diners were told further tests had shown it wasn’t Novichok and they were allowed to go home, leaving their details with police.
She said she understood the level of response.
“They took it really seriously, none of us were hurt,” she said, “I feel fine today.”
A statement from police following the incident said it was not clear if a crime had been committed and enquiries remained ongoing.
Police said: “Police received a call from the ambulance service to Prezzo restaurant, in High Street, at approximately 6.45pm. Two people, a man aged in his 40s and a woman aged in her 30s, had become unwell.
“Due to recent events in the city and concerns that the pair had been exposed to an unknown substance, a highly precautionary approach was taken by all emergency services.
“Both were taken to Salisbury District Hospital and were clinically assessed. We can now confirm that there is nothing to suggest that Novichok is the substance. Both people remain in hospital under observation.
“The major incident status has now been stood down.”