Britain’s counter-terror officers were Thursday investigating how a couple fell critically ill from the same military-grade nerve agent that nearly killed a former Russian double agent and his daughter in March.
Dawn Sturgess, 44, and Charlie Rowley, 45, were taken ill on Saturday in the village of Amesbury, close to the city of Salisbury, where former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were found slumped on a bench on March 4 in an incident that sparked a diplomatic crisis with Russia.
Scotland Yard’s Neil Basu, the senior-most counter-terrorism officer, confirmed that expert scientists in chemical warfare at the UK’s Porton Down laboratory had established that nerve agent Novichok had caused their collapse.
“Following the detailed analysis of these samples, we can confirm that the man and woman have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok, which has been identified as the same nerve agent that contaminated both Yulia and Skripal,” Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Basu said.
“The priority for the investigation team now, is to establish how these two people have come into contact with this nerve agent,” the Indian-origin officer said.
There was nothing in the backgrounds of Sturgess or Rowley, both British nationals, that would suggest they would be a target for a deliberate attack – they have no connections to the intelligence or security communities, Basu said.
Around 100 detectives from the UK’s Counter Terrorism Policing Network are now working alongside officers from Wiltshire Police. They have cordoned off a number of sites as a “precautionary measure”.