The British woman killed by a Russian military nerve agent suffered a huge dose after handling a container contaminated by novichok, believed to be from the same batch used in March’s attempted assassination of Sergei and Yulia Skripal, police have said.
The #Metropolitan police assistant commissioner Neil Basu said the substance that led to Dawn Sturgess and her partner Charlie Rowley falling ill on 30 June in Amesbury, Wiltshire was in a vessel or container when the couple came across it.
Police have opened a murder investigation after Sturgess died in hospital on Sunday at 8.26pm.
On Monday, Basu said Sturgess and Rowley got a high dose of novichok after handling a container containing the nerve agent. It was most likely that the container police are hunting for was linked to the attack on the Skripals four months earlier.
He said detectives would need forensic evidence before definitively saying the novichok used in the first attack had made the British couple ill.
Basu said of his detectives: “They are unable to say at this moment whether or not the nerve agent found in this incident is linked to the attack in March on Sergei and Yulia Skripal. However, this remains our main line of inquiry.
“In the four months since the Skripals and Nick Bailey were poisoned, no other people besides Dawn and Charlie have presented with symptoms. Their reaction is so severe it resulted in Dawn’s death and Charlie being critically ill. This means they must have got a high dose. Our hypothesis is they must have handled the container we are now seeking.”
Several sites have been cordoned off; the three of most interest are Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury, where the British couple spent part of Friday; the Salisbury homeless hostel where Sturgess lived and both visited on Friday; and Rowley’s Amesbury home, which they also visited on Friday.
In addition to Sturgess and Rowley, 21 people have been examined by health experts over concerns they could have been exposed to novichok – eight police officers and staff, nine healthcare workers, one paramedic and three members of the public. Wiltshire police said all had been assessed, screened and discharged.