A woman who was exposed to the same deadly nerve agent used to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter has died.
Dawn Sturgess, 44, fell ill along with Charlie Rowley, 45, on June 30 in the town of Amesbury, Wiltshire — which is about a 20-minute drive from Salisbury, where the Skripals were poisoned. Despite being rushed to intensive care, Sturgess died on Sunday evening, and police have now launched a murder inquiry.
“This is shocking and tragic news. Dawn leaves behind her family, including three children, and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this extremely difficult time,” head of UK Counter-Terrorism policing Neil Basu said. “This latest horrendous turn of events has only served to strengthen our resolve to identify and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for what I can only describe as an outrageous, reckless and barbaric act.”
Police say that Rowley remains critically ill. Meanwhile, an officer thought to have been exposed to the nerve agent was given the all-clear on Saturday.
Rowley regularly scavenged for goods to fix and sell, leading to the possibility that he and Sturgess might have inadvertently found the container used to transport the Novichok.
After the Skripal poisoning in March, British Prime Minister Theresa May concluded that it was “highly likely” Russia was responsible for the attack, “[b]ased on the positive identification of this chemical agent; …our knowledge that Russia has previously produced this agent and would still be capable of doing so; Russia’s record of conducting state-sponsored assassinations; and our assessment that Russia views some defectors as legitimate targets for assassinations.”
"It is highly likely that Russia was responsible" says Theresa May following the nerve agent attack on a former spy in Salisbury and his daughter pic.twitter.com/RS6o5hevaS
— Sky News (@SkyNews) March 12, 2018
The Kremlin, however, has continued to deny all involvement with the Novichok poisonings.
Some Russian officials have taken things a step further, mocking British investigators. “How dumb they think [Russia] is to use ‘again’ so-called ‘Novichok’ in the middle of the FIFA World Cup,” the Russian embassy in the Netherlands tweeted last Thursday. The Russian embassy in South Africa, meanwhile, tweeted that the poisoning was more likely to have been caused from a leak by Porton Down, the U.K.’s military research laboratory. In Russia, jokes about Novichok are also being used to help sell beer, coffee, and t-shirts.
Two British subjects were allegedly poisoned in #Amesbury by "Novichok". Fact: Porton Down military biotech lab capable of producing said nerve agent is in close proximity to both #Salisbury & #Amesbury. Question: What pretext will be invented to lay blame on Russia this time? pic.twitter.com/Ld9eiRsZxX
— Russia in RSA 🇷🇺 (@EmbassyofRussia) July 5, 2018
Sergei and Yulia Skripal were both discharged from hospital in May and have been offered permanent close protection — as well as a possible settlement in the U.S. or Australia. Yulia said that the poisoning had turned her life “upside down” and that she and her father were “lucky to have survived this assassination attempt.”
“The fact that a nerve agent was used to do this was shocking,” she said. “I don’t want to describe the details, but the physical treatment was invasive, painful and depressing.”