A SPECIAL squad of “super recognisers” are leading the hunt to catch the Russian assassins behind the Salisbury Novichok poisoning plot.
The two Scotland Yard detectives have trawled 5,000 hours of CCTV footage trying match faces in Salisbury at the time of the poisoning with images of Heathrow passengers.
The two super recognisers are specialists in memorising and recognising faces and believed to be behind the identification of two suspects who the UK authorities now want to extradite from Russia.
They were dispatched to Salisbury shortly after Sergei Skripal, 67, and daughter Yulia, 33, were poisoned with nerve agent Novichok, in March.
It is believed they were shown images of known Russian agents suspected of operating in the UK before searching for their faces on Salisbury’s CCTV.
Former detective chief inspector Mick Neville, who set up the squad, said: “The two super recognisers were deployed immediately because of their special skills and they are still on the case. I’ve no doubt they’ve played a key role.
Former DCI Mick Neville, who set up the squad, said recognisers will comb through CCTV from the area[/caption]
“They have an innate skill, you can’t buy it and you can’t teach it. They have a highly unusual ability in remembering faces, whether it’s from a picture, a bit of film or someone they’ve met.
“They don’t concentrate on the obvious, the greying hair or the moustache or the glasses, they look at the eyes, the mouth, the ears, the things that don’t change. They can recognise a face from the tiniest glimpse of part of it.
“The intelligence agencies will have images of foreign agents who come here and once they are scanned by the super recognisers they will be imprinted in their memory.”
The squad was set up in the wake of the 2011 London riots and helped identify the killer of schoolgirl Alice Gross in West London in 2014.
Julia Skripal and her father fully recovered from the attempted assassination[/caption]
Police believe the Skripals, who both recovered from the attempted assassination, were poisoned by Novichok smeared on the front door handle of their Salisbury home.
Mr Neville added: “Sergei was living openly with his real name registered in the voters’ database and seemingly unconcerned at the possibility of being assassinated.
“But he may have had security because he was worried about being burgled and so might his neighbours, so it’s possible the would-be killers were caught on a camera in the act.
“Vehicles moving around with dashboard cameras might also have recorded an image.
Dawn Sturgess, 45, died after coming into contact with Novichok believed to be stored inside a perfume bottle[/caption]
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“It’s possible the attackers followed the Skripals into the city centre the next day to make sure that the poison finally worked and there are lots of cameras around the bench where the victims were found.
“It’s a laborious part of the operation, but there is plenty of material for the super recognisers to work on.”
The Kremlin denies being involved in any Novichok poisoning plot.
Dawn Sturgess, 45, died in June, just 10 days after coming into contact with Novichok believed to be stored inside a perfume bottle. Her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, survived but has since been rushed back to hospital with suspected meningitis.
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