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Wiltshire pair ‘poisoned by nerve agent’

A man and woman found unconscious in Wiltshire were poisoned by Novichok – the same nerve agent that poisoned ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal, police say.

The couple, believed to be Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, are in a critical condition having been found unconscious at a house on Saturday.

Police say no one else has presented with the same symptoms.

There was “nothing in their background” to suggest the pair were targeted, the Met Police said.

The pair, believed to be Dawn Sturgess, 44 and Charlie Rowley, 45, were found unconscious on Saturday in Amesbury

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said it could not be confirmed whether the nerve agent came from the same batch that Mr Skripal, and his daughter Yulia, were exposed to.

But he said the possibility was “clearly a line of enquiry”.

Mr Basu said no contaminated items had yet been found, but officers were putting together a “very detailed examination of [the couple’s] movements” in order to determine where they were poisoned.

He added that members of the public should not pick anything up if they don’t know what it is.

“We have no idea what may have contained the nerve agent at this time,” he said.

The Counter Terrorism Policing Network is now leading the investigation, working with Wiltshire Police.

Police have cordoned off a number of areas including Muggleton Road in Amesbury

England’s chief medical officer, Sally Davies, said: “I want to reassure the public that the risk to the general public remains low.”

The Skripal episode meant officials had a “well-established response” in place, she said.

“As before, my advice is to wash your clothes and wipe down any personal items, shoes and bags, with cleansing or baby wipes before disposing of them in the usual way.

“You do not need to seek advice from a health professional unless you are experiencing symptoms, as any individual who had been significantly exposed at the same time would by now have symptoms.”

On Saturday, paramedics were called twice to the property in Amesbury – in the morning, after Ms Sturgess had collapsed, then later the same day, after Mr Rowley had also fallen unwell.

“It was initially believed that the two patients fell ill after using possibly heroin or crack cocaine from a contaminated batch of drugs,” Wiltshire Police said.

The news that Novichok was to blame was confirmed following analysis at the defence research facility at Porton Down, Wiltshire.

As a precautionary measure, sites in Amesbury and Salisbury, believed to have been visited by the couple before they fell ill, have been cordoned off.

There is no evidence to suggest either visited the sites that were decontaminated following the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Local residents have been warned to expect to see an increased police presence – including officers wearing protective equipment.

Security correspondent Gordon Corera said the poisoning was “hugely significant” as the public “will be worried about public health”.

He also added: “The most likely hypothesis is that this is leftover Novichok from the attack on the Skripals back in March.

“Perhaps this is some of the Novichok prepared for the attack and discarded: maybe somewhere like a park, a house, and maybe these two came across it.”

He added it could give counter-terrorism investigators new leads on where the nerve agent was “brought and put together” before the attack on the Skripals.

The Amesbury branch of Boots was closed on Wednesday morning as a “precautionary measure”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said his thoughts were with the two individuals affected and thanked the emergency services and staff at Salisbury District Hospital.

He said the events follow “the reckless and barbaric attack which took place in Salisbury in March”.

“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,” he said.

“Tomorrow [Thursday] I will chair a meeting of the government’s emergency committee Cobra in relation to the ongoing investigation.”

 

 


Two people were admitted to the Salisbury District Hospital after it was suspected they were exposed to an unknown substance in Amesbury, near Salisbury in the United Kingdom. Wiltshire Police declared a major incident early on Wednesday, after a man and a woman in their 40s were found unconscious in a property on Saturday evening. They are currently receiving treatment and are in a critical condition, according to the statement.

The police opened an investigation and said they will cordon off a number of scenes believed to be frequented by the pair round the Amesbury and Salisbury area. Former spy Sergey Skripal and his daughter were previously poisoned in Salisbury on March 4, and have since recovered. The UK believes Russia is behind the attack, and the incident led to London expelling 23 Russian diplomats, prompting some allies to do the same.

 


Two people in critical condition near Salisbury, exposed to ‘unknown substance’

Wiltshire ‘major incident’: ‘Unknown substance’ leaves Amesbury pair critically ill in Salisbury hospital

UK police declare major incident as two people fall ill near Salisbury

(Reuters) – British police declared a major incident late on Tuesday after it said a man and a woman in a critical condition may have been exposed to an unknown substance near the southern English town of Salisbury.

“Wiltshire Police and partners have this evening declared a major incident after it is suspected that two people might have been exposed to an unknown substance in Amesbury,” the police said in a statement.

“Emergency services were called to an address in Muggleton Road, Amesbury on Saturday evening (June 30) after a man and woman, both in their 40s, were found unconscious in a property,” the police said.

Amesbury lies seven miles (11 kms) to the north of Salisbury, where in March Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, fell severely ill after being poisoned by nerve agent.

Police on Wednesday said sites that it believed the man and woman found in Amesbury had frequented in both Amesbury and Salisbury would be cordoned off overnight as a precaution.

It was initially thought the man and woman had possibly used crack cocaine or heroin from a batch of contaminated drugs, police said, adding that further testing was ongoing.

A Public Health England (PHE) spokesman said: “The current advice from PHE England, based upon the number of casualties affected, is that it is not believed that there is a significant health risk to the wider public. This will be continually assessed as further information becomes known.”

The man and woman were being treated at Salisbury District Hospital, which remains open as usual, police said.

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