Police open murder probe as woman exposed to nerve agent dies

Police open murder probe as woman exposed to nerve agent dies

The 67-year-old ex-agent was living in Salisbury, a cathedral city 145 kilometres southwest of London, when he was struck down along with his daughter, Yulia, who was visiting him.

The second nerve agent emergency in four months prompted a diplomatic row, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid accusing the Russian state of using Britain as a "dumping ground for poison".

Sturgess and a man named locally as Charlie Rowley, 45, fell ill last weekend in Amesbury, near the town of Salisbury where former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were attacked with Novichok in March and have since recovered.

Her boyfriend Charlie Rowley, 45, was also exposed to the nerve agent around the same time and place - and he remains in critical condition and in a coma at the Salisbury hospital.

The death of Sturgess was being investigated as a murder, police said in a statement.

The March attack on the Skripals prompted the biggest Western expulsion of Russian diplomats since the Cold War as allies sided with Britain's view that Moscow was either responsible or had lost control of the nerve agent.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the area is open for business and urged people to visit what he called one of the most handsome parts of the country.

A British woman poisoned by exposure to the nerve agent Novichok has died, according to reports.

Police initially thought the duo had come into contact with a damaging batch of crack cocaine or heroin.




Police said her relatives have been informed and are receiving support from specially trained family liaison officers.

The U.N. chemical weapons watchdog confirmed the finding in the Skripal case.

Test samples from Sturgess and Rowley show they were exposed to Novichok "after touching a contaminated item with their hands", police said.

The hospital's medical director, Christine Blanshard, told the BBC that hospital staff worked tirelessly to save Sturgess.

He said: "Ms Sturgess was an innocent member of the public who should have been able to go about her daily life without becoming an unwilling victim in such an unprecedented, international, incident". "They did everything they could", she said.

"Because the nerve agents compromise nerve and muscle function, their effects are widespread and where deaths occur these are usually due to either respiratory or circulatory failure, or both", he said.

The investigation is being led by detectives from the Counter Terrorism Policing Network and about 100 detectives are working round the clock, he said.

So far, there is no evidence that the couple visited any of the sites involved in the Skripal case.

Police say the nerve agent that sickened Rowley and Sturgess was the same type that nearly killed the Skripals, but scientists haven't been able to tell whether it was from the same batch.

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