Russian attack led to death of woman from Novichok: UK defense minister

Clay Curtis
July 10, 2018

British police rushed to solve a murder mystery on Monday after a woman died following exposure to the nerve agent Novichok, four months after the same toxin almost killed a former Russian spy in an attack that Britain blamed on Moscow.

The British defense lab determined earlier that Novichok, a type of nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War, was used on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian intelligence officer once convicted in his homeland of spying for Britain.

A woman who was exposed to the nerve agent Novichok in Wiltshire county in South West England died in hospital on Sunday, The Guardian reported.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the head of UK Counter Terrorism policing, said Sturgess' death was "shocking and tragic news". "Dawn leaves behind her family, including three children, and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this extremely hard time", Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the head of UK Counter Terrorism Policing said.

Britain has not directly pointed the finger at Russian Federation in the case involving Sturgess and Rowley, saying the investigation, led by the Counter Terrorism Policing Network, is ongoing.

Detectives leading the hunt for those responsible are desperately trying to locate the source of the contamination - which is believed to be a glass container or syringe - which had lain undetected in Salisbury since the Skripal poisoning in March.

Authorities have launched a murder inquiry into her death, police said.

Both the Skripals have now been released from hospital and are living in a secret location.

"We are not in a position to say whether the nerve agent was from the same batch that the Skripals were exposed to", they said.

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Her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, is still in a critical condition after the couple fell ill last Saturday. "We believe it is not only risky for the British, but also all other Europeans".

The investigation is being led by detectives from the Counter Terrorism Policing Network and about 100 detectives are working round the clock, he said. Notably, neither United Kingdom specialists at the Porton Down laboratory, nor the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) identified Russian Federation as the origin of the nerve agent.

Whatever the case, her death will now mean that - four months after the attack on the Skripals - the Novichok nerve agent has claimed its first victim.

British officials have said they will raise the Novichok attack at a meeting of the leaders of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation countries.

While the United Kingdom and the West immediately blamed Russian Federation for the Skripal poisoning, the public has yet to be provided with any credible evidence to back up the claim.

Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said: "I know this news will affect more people than just those who knew Dawn - it will affect our communities right across the county".

Theresa May paid tribute to Ms Sturgess in the Commons, saying: "I am sure the House will join me in sending our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Dawn Sturgess who passed away last night".

Public Health England said the risk to the general public "remains low".

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