Sunday 23 September 2018

Murder probe after woman dies from nerve poisoning

44-year-old Dawn Sturgess died in a hospital in Salisbury
44-year-old Dawn Sturgess died in a hospital in Salisbury

Jill Lawless

A woman poisoned by a military-grade nerve agent has died, eight days after police think she touched a contaminated item that has not been found.

London's Metropolitan Police launched a murder inquiry after 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess died in a hospital in Salisbury, near where the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned four months ago.

Ms Sturgess and her boyfriend, Charlie Rowley (45), were admitted to hospital in south-west England. He remains in a critical condition.

Police said tests showed the pair were exposed to Novichok, the same type of nerve agent used to poison the Skripals.

Police suspect Mr Rowley and Mr Sturgess handled an item from the first attack, which Britain blames on Russia. Moscow has denied any involvement.

British Prime Minister Theresa May said she was "appalled and shocked" by the death of Ms Sturgess.

"Police and security officials are working urgently to establish the facts of this incident, which is now being treated as murder," Mrs May said.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, Britain's top anti-terrorism police officer, said the death "has only served to strengthen our resolve" to find those responsible.

More than 100 police officers have been working to locate a small vial or other container thought to have held the nerve agent that sickened the two.

Officials say the search and clean-up operation will take weeks or even month.

Counter-terrorism police are also studying roughly 1,300 hours of CCTV in the hope of finding clues about the couple's activities in the hours before they became violently ill.

Detectives want to know where the couple were in order to get new leads on where the contamination might have occurred.

Britain maintains that the March attack on the Skripals was ordered by the Russian government, a charge denied by representatives of Russian President Vladimir Putin. The case led to the expulsion of Russian diplomats from Britain.

Irish Independent

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