Published: Thu, July 12, 2018
Worldwide | By Myra Stephens

Novichok investigation stretches from Salisbury to Swindon

Novichok investigation stretches from Salisbury to Swindon

London's Metropolitan Police said detectives have launched a murder investigation following the death of Dawn Sturgess, 44, at a hospital Sunday evening local time.

"This is shocking and tragic news", Neil Basu, of the UK's counterterrorism agency, said.

The British woman who was recently exposed to the same nerve agent that nearly killed a Russian spy and his daughter earlier this year has died, police said Sunday.

Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson blamed Russian Federation for committing "an attack on British soil" over the latest poisonings, some four months after Sergei and Yulia Skripal were targeted.

Britain and its allies accused Russian Federation of killing double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, while Russian Federation denies any involvement in the Skripals" case calling the allegations a "fake story'.

The death of Sturgess is now being investigated as a murder.

British authorities say Sturgess and Rowley, 45, were found unconscious on June 30 at a house in Amesbury, less than 20 kilometers from Salisbury.

Sturgess died at Salisbury District Hospital, the same facility that nursed the critically ill Skripals.

Mr Javid said there were "no plans" for further sanctions against Russian Federation, but he repeated the government's assessment that Russian Federation was the source of the Novichok.

Three other men who were also in the van that day have been screened as a precaution, but are not showing any signs of having been exposed to novichok, Mr Basu said.

Amesbury is about 12.87 km from Salisbury, the place where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were poisoned by the same gas in March.

"Our focus and priority at this time is to identify and locate any container that we believe may be the source of the contamination", Basu said. "I think someone from counter-terrorism needs to come here and tell us what they know", he said. That afternoon, Rowley fell ill at the same address in Amesbury and was also hospitalised.

Police are yet to recover that item but Public Health England said the risk to the public is low and warned against picking up "any odd items such as needles, syringes or unusual containers".

Test samples from Sturgess and Rowley show they were exposed to Novichok "after touching a contaminated item with their hands", police said.

In addition to Sturgess and Rowley, 21 people have been examined by health experts over concerns they could have been exposed to the Novichok - eight police officers and staff, nine health care workers, one paramedic and three members of the public. "Their evidence is vital for both public safety and for the investigation".

Novichok, which works by causing a slowing of the heart and restriction of the airways, is one of the world's rarest nerve agents.

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