Woman Poisoned With Novichok Nerve Agent Dies in England
A 44-year-old British woman has died after being exposed to the nerve agent Novichok in western England, reported Reuters quoting the Metropolitan Police.
The police told Associated Police (AP) that 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess died on Sunday, 8 July in a hospital in Salisbury.
Sturgess and 45-year-old Charlie Rowley were hospitalised on Wednesday, 4 July after being found unwell on Saturday, 1 July in Amesbury.
According to AP, police say they were exposed to Novichok, the same type of nerve agent used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury In March.
Police suspect they were exposed through a contaminated item left over from the first attack, which Britain blames on Russia.
Britain Accuses Russia
According to a report in Reuters, Britain has accused Russia of poisoning the Skripals with Novichok – a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military during the Cold War – in what is the first known offensive use of such a chemical weapon on European soil since World War Two.
Russia has denied any involvement in their poisoning.
UK counter-terrorism police are leading the investigation, though Basu said it was unclear how the two people came into contact with the nerve agent or whether they had been specifically targetted.
“I don't have any intelligence or evidence that they were targeted in any way,” Basu told Reuters.
Around 100 counter-terrorism officers are working on the case and police have cordoned off at least five different areas, including a park and a property in Salisbury, as well as a pharmacy and a Baptist church community centre in Amesbury.
The March attack prompted the biggest Western expulsion of Russian diplomats since the Cold War as allies in Europe and the United States sided with Prime Minister Theresa May’s view that Moscow was either responsible or had lost control of the nerve agent.
Mystery surrounds the attack and the motive is unclear, as is the logic of using such an exotic nerve agent which has overt links to the Soviet military during the Cold War.
Moscow also hit back by expelling Western diplomats, questioning how Britain knows that Russia was responsible and offering rival interpretations, including that it amounted to a plot by British secret services.
Russian officials questioned why Russia would want to attack an ageing turncoat who was pardoned and then traded in a Kremlin-approved 2010 spy swap.
Health chiefs said on Wednesday, 4 July the risk to the public was low, though the exposure of two people apparently unconnected to espionage or the former Soviet Union will stoke fears that traces of the nerve agent remain in the area, reported Reuters.
Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said the government’s emergency response committee had met to discuss the incident. Home Secretary Sajid Javid will chair a meeting of the emergency response committee on Thursday.
“The Amesbury investigation is ongoing and the police must be given the space they need to continue establishing the full facts,” Javid said.
“My thoughts at this time are with the two individuals affected. The government’s first priority is for the safety of the residents in the local area, but as Public Health England has made clear, the risk to the general public is low.”
After the Skripal poisoning, police investigators in protective hazmat suits scoured the ancient English cathedral city of Salisbury. Basu cautioned that police in protective clothing would return to the area.
The pair, who are being treated at Salisbury District Hospital, were initially believed to have taken heroin or crack cocaine from a contaminated batch, police said.
But tests showed they had been poisoned with Novichok.
“We are not in a position to say whether the nerve agent was from the same batch that the Skripals were exposed to,” Basu said.
The hospital is where the Skripals also spent weeks in a critical condition before slowly recovering and being discharged.
Yulia told Reuters in May, “We are so lucky to have both survived this attempted assassination. Our recovery has been slow and extremely painful.”
Russia has said it does not possess such nerve agents, did not develop Novichok, and President Vladimir Putin dismissed as nonsense the notion that Moscow would have poisoned Skripal and his daughter.
(With inputs from Reuters and AP)