A Russian model at the center of a poisoning scare in the UK town of Salisbury, who had triggered speculation that the incident may have been an elaborate hoax, has asserted that her fears were genuine.
Anna Shapiro, 30, and her partner Alex King, 42, had been rushed to a hospital on Sunday following the suspected poisoning scare at an Italian restaurant in Salisbury, the town where former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found collapsed after being poisoned with the deadly Novichok nerve agent earlier this year.
Shapiro blamed the media for casting doubt over her account that she and King had been targeted by the Russian state.
"There has been some media speculation that our client may have participated in an elaborate hoax as regards her fear of her husband's poisoning at Prezzo restaurant on Sunday and its possible cause," Shapiro's lawyer James Mullion from Janes Solicitors said in a statement on Friday.
"She has asked Janes Solicitors to emphasize that she was not involved in any hoax and that her fears were genuine both as to the poisoning and her suspicion of foul play," the statement said.
"However, as the incident is now being investigated by Wiltshire police, it is not appropriate to comment further at this stage. We ask the media to respect our client's privacy whilst she recovers from her ordeal," it said.
Shapiro and King have been interviewed by Wiltshire Police and no arrests have been made.
Speculation around hoax being a line of the police inquiry emerged as it was revealed that in 2006, King carried out a "prank" on Britain's Prince Charles at a film premiere.
He inserted himself into an official line-up of stars being greeted by the Prince of Wales and was later interviewed by the media about his deception. He also has a previous conviction for distributing indecent photographs or pseudo-photographs of children.
Earlier this week, Shapiro had told 'The Sun' newspaper that she and her husband had been targeted with a suspected rat poison and pointed the finger of blame at the Kremlin.
"I was targeted by Putin's henchmen. They want me dead as I oppose Putin and have turned my back on my country. Russia is capable of anything," she told the newspaper.
"I'm sure the Russians think I'm a British spy. I know lots of rich businessmen in central London and because I have the accent people make assumptions about me," she said, claiming her father was a "general in the Russian Army who played for the military orchestra".
The restaurant, on the High Street in Salisbury, is a short walk from Queen Elizabeth Gardens, which was closed off for investigation after 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess was fatally poisoned by Novichok, the same deadly nerve agent used against the Skripals.
British Prime Minister Theresa May has accused the Russian government of orchestrating the poisoning of the Skripals, most recently releasing CCTV footage of two Russian male suspects seen in the town days before the incident in March.
The Russian government has repeatedly denied the UK government's allegations.