UK police confirm Russian ex-spy and daughter hit by nerve agent

LONDON: The former Russian double agent who collapsed in a British town with his daughter was targeted with a nerve agent, while a responding policeman has also been hospitalised, UK police said on Wednesday.

"This is being treated as a major incident involving attempted murder by administration of a nerve agent," Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Mark Rowley told reporters.

Scientific tests have identified the specific nerve agent used, "which will help identify the source", but AC Rowley declined to reveal what it is.

Mr Sergei Skripal, 66, who moved to the UK in a 2010 spy swop, is in a "critical, but stable" condition in hospital along with his daughter Yulia after they collapsed on a bench outside a shopping centre in the south-western English city of Salisbury on Sunday.

"A police officer, who was one of the first to attend the scene is now also in a serious condition," said AC Rowley.

Interior Minister Amber Rudd, in an update to the British Parliament, confirmed that the officer is in a serious condition but is "conscious, talking and engaging".

She has called for "cool heads" over the poisoning, which has been linked to Russia by British politicians and the media.

Meanwhile, hundreds of counter-terrorism detectives are working "around the clock" to create a timeline of the victims' movements, with "many hours" of CCTV under review.

Investigators believe Mr Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter had lunch at a pizza restaurant and visited a pub before being found on the bench.

A witness who was in the pub, which has been closed by police, told the BBC that Mr Skripal was behaving erratically and was shouting at one point .

The Times newspaper reported police are probing whether Ms Yulia, who arrived from Moscow last week with "gifts from friends", may have inadvertently brought the nerve agent into the country. - AFP