Hundreds of people turned out to welcome the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall on a morale-boosting visit to Salisbury following the nerve agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.
Charles and Camilla’s visit has been arranged to support the recovery programme under way in the Wiltshire city which has faced weeks of disruption as the police investigation continues.
Mr Skripal, 66, and Ms Skripal, 33, were left fighting for their lives in hospital after being found unconscious on a park bench in the city on March 4 after the nerve agent attack.
They have since been discharged from hospital.
Businesses close to the scene of the poisoning have suffered from a fall in customer visits by as much as 80%, while across Salisbury, tourism is down by 15%.
Local leaders have been encouraging tourists and shoppers to return to the picturesque medieval town and they were helped in their cause when the Maltings shopping centre re-opened several weeks ago after a clean-up operation.
The royal couple began their visit by meeting workers at shops in the Maltings as well as pop-up market stalls next to the bench, now removed, where the Skripals were found.
They continued past the Zizzi restaurant where the Skripals ate, into the Guildhall Square, where they were met by hundreds of people waving union flags, including children from 17 schools.
Jessica Fulton, who lives and works in Salisbury, took time out from work to see the royal couple.
She said: “I think their visit is very important, it boosts morale and hopefully bring people back to the city, we need tourists to survive.”
Rose Gaulton, 64, met the Duchess and said: “She said it was important to come to Salisbury because she was from Wiltshire.”
Charles and Camilla also attended a reception in the Guildhall where they met members of the emergency services who handled the incident as well as those actively involved in the city’s recovery programme.
The pair were also scheduled to meet Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, who was poisoned while investigating the attack on the Skirpals.
Superintendent Dave Minty, of Wiltshire Police, who co-ordinated the initial response to the Skripal incident, said: “Having the royal visit is brilliant as it really emphasises that we are doing the right thing and Salisbury is recovering.
“From day one when we didn’t know what had happened and from the chaos and confusion, we have hopefully managed to bring things together successfully to show Salisbury is recovering and show we can move forward.”
Canon Edward Probert, the acting dean of Salisbury Cathedral, said: “I am grateful and glad their royal highnesses have come to see Salisbury and give this encouragement to the city which has had a serious blow and which has shown considerable resilience and resolve.”
At the end of their visit the royal couple were presented with a hamper of gifts of local produce from the city’s shops.
The inquiry into the nerve agent attack has involved 250 detectives who have gone through more than 5,000 hours of CCTV and interviewed more than 500 witnesses.
The Government has accused Russia of being behind the attack but Moscow has repeatedly denied responsibility for the incident.