Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

United Kingdom woman dies after second nerve-agent poisoning

A police officer stands guard at a cordon near Rollestone Street in Salisbury southern EnglandMore A police officer stands guard at a cordon near Rollestone Street in Salisbury southern EnglandMore
Melinda Barton | 13 July, 2018, 07:41

The British defense lab determined earlier that Novichok, a type of nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, was used on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer once convicted in his homeland of spying for Britain. "Dawn leaves behind her family, including three children, and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this extremely hard time", said Neil Basu, an assistant commissioner who is head of Counter Terrorism Policing for the United Kingdom. She and her partner Charlie Rowley were hospitalized after both fell seriously ill in what was initially believed to be a drug-related incident.

Police say the nerve agent that sickened Rowley and Sturgess was the same type that nearly killed the Skripals, but scientists haven't been able to tell whether it was from the same batch.

British authorities say Novichok was also used in a suspected attempt to kill a former Russian spy and his daughter in nearby Salisbury in March.

Basu gave a press statement following the death of Dawn Sturgess, 44, from exposure to a nerve agent.

Russia, which is now hosting the football World Cup, has denied any involvement in the Skripal case and suggested the British security services had carried out the attack to stoke anti-Moscow hysteria. "The government is committed to providing full support to the local community as it deals with this tragedy", she said.

Public Health England warned people not to pick up any "strange items such as needles, syringes, or unusual containers".

They were believed to have become exposed to Novichok by handling a container, and a link to the Salisbury attack in March is a main line of investigation.

Given the couple's severe reactions, he said it was likely they were exposed to a high dose of the chemical.

A relative at Sturgess's family home in Durrington, near Amesbury, said the family was "devastated" but declined to comment further.

Ms Sturgess was rushed to hospital after becoming ill on June 30.

"As I've said before, there is no evidence that either Dawn or Charlie visited any of the sites that were decontaminated following the attempted murders of Sergei and Yulia Skripal".

He said no one else in the Amesbury and Salisbury region where the couple lived in southwestern England has shown any sign of Novichok poisoning.

Authorities are still investigating the incident, which has been widely speculated to be a revenge hit by Russian intelligence services or organised crime - part of a pattern of allegedly suspicious deaths of supposed traitors to the Russian state living overseas in the UK.

- How did they come into contact with the nerve agent?

"In the four months since the Skripals and Nick Bailey were poisoned, no other people besides Dawn and Charlie have presented with symptoms".