Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
People | By Neil Grant

UK police rush to solve Novichok nerve agent death

UK police rush to solve Novichok nerve agent death

The woman, identified by police as Dawn Sturgess, 44, was exposed to Novichok last week after handling a contaminated item.

The death of Sturgess was being investigated as a murder, police said in a statement.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the head of UK Counter Terrorism policing said: "This is shocking and tragic news".

Sturgess had been hospitalized after falling ill on June 30 along with 45-year-old Charlie Rowley.

The March attack sickened Sergei V. Skripal, a former Russian intelligence agent who had sold information to Britain and was living in Salisbury; his daughter, Yulia S. Skripal, who was visiting from Russia; and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey of the Wiltshire Police, who was one of the first officers to look into the case.

The Kremlin said it would be "absurd" to suggest Russian Federation was involved in the death of Sturgess.

Dr Christine Blanshard, from Salisbury District Hospital where Ms Sturgess was treated, described her death as "desperately sad" and sent her condolences to the family.

"Just like before, we are deeply concerned that toxic substances continue to surface on British soil", Peskov said. They had been exposed to an agent known as Novichok.

British police said Monday they believe the latest victims of poisoning by a nerve agent must have handled the material's container and been subjected to a "high dose" of the lethal poison.

The nominally retired double agent Sergei Skripal spent several weeks in a coma after being discovered on a bench in Salisbury in March; he eventually recovered enough to be released from the hospital.

Police said they could not yet say whether the nerve agent in the Amesbury case was linked to the Salisbury attack - but it was their main line of inquiry.

A spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Dmitry Peskov, said the investigation and what was happening in the Salisbury area was a British domestic issue. The spot is less than half a mile from Queen Elizabeth Gardens, where Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley may have come into contact with the poison.

Dawn Sturgess, 44, succumbed to her injuries in a hospital in Salisbury, according to the Metropolitan Police in the United Kingdom.

Speaking after Sturgess passed away on July 8, Basu told the media he "cannot offer any guarantees" and urged people to follow Public Health England advice to avoid picking up discarded containers or syringes.

A red transit van that Mr Rowley travelled in the day he fell ill has been identified and taken to Porton Down where tests will be carried out. This work will take time and the investigation must be allowed to proceed on the evidence and the facts alone.

Britain has called on Russian Federation to answer questions about where the nerve agent came from.

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