Novichok: UK police in desperate hunt for container of deadly nerve agent after Dawn Sturgess death


Posted

July 10, 2018 12:34:49

Police in the UK have warned they cannot guarantee the safety of the public after the death of a woman who came into contact with the Novichok nerve agent near Salisbury in southern England.

Key points:

  • Police search focussed on victims’ homes and a park
  • Health authorities say risk to other people is low
  • Novichok is a military-grade nerve agent

Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer Neil Basu said the death of 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess showed that she and partner Charlie Rowley, 45, must have handled a contaminated item and been subjected to a “high dose” of the lethal poison.

“This latest horrendous turn of events has only served to strengthen the resolve of our investigation team as we work to identify those responsible for this outrageous, reckless and barbaric act,” Mr Basu said.

He said police were working on a theory that the exposure was linked to the earlier Novichok attack on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

The Skripals both survived despite extended stays in hospital.

Mr Basu said the priority was to determine how the pair came across an item contaminated with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent produced in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

“Our focus and priority at this time is to identify and locate any container that we believe may be the source of the contamination,” he said.

And he said he could not rule out the possibility of other people being poisoned.

“I simply cannot offer any guarantees,” he said, adding that public health authorities said the risk was low.

Mr Basu said no one else in the Amesbury and Salisbury region, where the couple lived in south-western England, had shown any sign of Novichok poisoning.

More than 100 police are working to try and search all areas where Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley had been before they became ill nine days ago.

The search is focused on their homes and a park in Salisbury.

Mr Rowley remains in critical condition in a Salisbury hospital.

“The staff here at Salisbury District Hospital worked tirelessly to save Dawn. They did everything they could,” Christine Blanshard, medical director at the hospital said.

Britain blames Russia for the attack on the Skripals, an allegation Moscow has repeatedly denied.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov expressed condolences over Ms Sturgess’s death but said linking Russia to the poisoning would be “absurd”.

“It’s Britain’s problem and the problem of how interested Britain is in a real investigation,” he said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she was appalled and shocked by Ms Sturgess’s death, and Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the “desperately sad news only strengthens our resolve to find out exactly what has happened”.

Mr Javid, who chaired a meeting of the government’s emergency committee on Monday, has said there are no plans at this stage for further sanctions against Russia.

Reuters/AP

Topics:

crime,

law-crime-and-justice,

murder-and-manslaughter,

terrorism,

united-kingdom



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