2018 Amesbury poisonings

2018 Amesbury poisonings
Location Amesbury, Wiltshire, England
Date 30 June 2018
Weapons Novichok (believed)
Deaths Dawn Sturgess
(8 July 2018, aged 44, after being admitted to hospital)
Non-fatal injuries
Charlie Rowley
(45; admitted to hospital; discharged 20 July 2018)
Coroner HM Coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon

On 30 June 2018, in Amesbury, two British nationals, Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, were admitted to Salisbury District Hospital in Wiltshire, England. Police determined that they were poisoned by a Novichok nerve agent of the same kind used in the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury, 8 miles (13 km) away, almost four months prior.[1][2][3] Sturgess died on 8 July, and Rowley regained consciousness two days after.

Hospital admissions and subsequent death of Sturgess[]

According to the subsequent press report released by the Metropolitan Police, at 10:15 on Saturday 30 June 2018, the South Western Ambulance Service was called to a residential address in Amesbury after Dawn Sturgess had collapsed. She was subsequently taken to hospital and admitted. That same day, at 15:30, the South Western Ambulance Service was called back to that same address, after Charlie Rowley had fallen ill. He was taken to hospital, and Wiltshire Police were informed of both admissions and (thus) were alerted to the incident.

On 8 July, Sturgess died after doctors made the decision to switch off her life support.[4][5] On 10 July, Rowley regained consciousness and there was a "small but significant improvement to his condition" according to the hospital.[6] On 11 July, he was no longer in critical condition and the hospital downgraded his condition to "serious but stable".[7] The same day, officers from the investigation team spoke with Rowley.[7] He told his brother Matthew the nerve agent had been in a small perfume or aftershave bottle, which they had found in a park about nine days before spraying themselves with it. The police later closed and fingertip-searched Queen Elizabeth Gardens, a riverside park in central Salisbury, which the couple had visited the day before they fell ill.[8] The funeral of Sturgess took place at Salisbury crematorium on 30 July 2018.[9]

On 20 July, Rowley was discharged from the hospital.[10] Over the weekend of 18/19 August 2018, Rowley was re-admitted to hospital with sight problems.[11] On 4 September 2018 he was reported to be ill with meningitis but was expected to leave hospital "within a month".[12]

Investigation[]

The incident is being investigated by the Specialist Operations Directorate of the Metropolitan Police, assisted nationally by the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network and locally by Wiltshire Police. According to the Metropolitan Police, there is nothing in either of the victims' backgrounds to suggest that they were deliberately targeted, and there have been no other reports of people presenting with similar symptoms. The couple were believed to have been near the roads that were sealed off during the investigation of the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury.[13]

During initial assessment, medical staff believed that the patients' illness was caused by the use of contaminated illegal drugs. But on 2 July, hospital staff had concerns over the symptoms the couple were displaying, and sent samples from both patients to the Government's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down for analysis. On 4 July the laboratory confirmed that the patients were exposed to Novichok nerve agent.[2][14]

According to BBC News, the "most likely hypothesis" was that the Novichok was left over from the attack on the Skripals and that the contaminated item which poisoned the couple "could be a vial or syringe because of the couple's lifestyle", as it is believed the Novichok was disposed of "in a haphazard way".[15] Friends of the couple told The Guardian that Rowley frequently scavenged recycling bins for objects that he could sell, and that the couple's houses contained "loads of household things" they had picked up.[16]

Sites in both Amesbury and Salisbury which were believed to have been visited by the couple were cordoned off. These sites are the local Boots Pharmacy, the Baptist Centre, and Muggleton Road in Amesbury, and the Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury.[14] Local residents were warned of an increased police presence, including officers wearing protective equipment.[14]

On 6 July, police announced that officers had identified and spoken to several key witnesses and were trawling through more than 1,300 hours of CCTV footage which has been collected so far.[17]

On 13 July a police cordon closed the north end of Rollestone Street, Salisbury to enable members of the Counter Terrorism Policing Network to search John Baker House, a hostel for the homeless where Dawn Sturgess lived. On 24 July the cordon was lifted and the police announced that no contamination was found in John Baker House. [18]

The Metropolitan Police announced on 13 July 2018[19][20] that they had identified the source of the nerve agent that poisoned Sturgess and Rowley as being a "small bottle" discovered at Rowley's house in Amesbury which was confirmed by analysis at Dstl Porton Down to contain Novichok. Matthew Rowley, brother of the victim, said Charlie told him that he had picked up "the perfume bottle". The Metropolitan Police refused to confirm this claim.[21]

On July 13, The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) received a request from the UK for technical assistance on the incident in Amesbury. The OPCW sent a team of specialists who collected the samples and sent them to two laboratories. By July 18, preliminary work was completed and the team returned from the UK.[22]

The inquest for Sturgess was opened and adjourned by HM Coroner for Wiltshire and Swindon in Salisbury on 19 July 2018 until 16 January 2019.[23][24]

On 7 August 2018, the Foreign Office announced that OPCW experts will return to Amesbury to collect further samples. A spokesman said: “During their visit, the OPCW’s experts will collect more samples to inform their work following their visit in July. The samples will be analysed at highly reputable international laboratories designated by the OPCW.”[25] The poison was confirmed on 4 September by the OPCW to be the same kind of nerve agent as that used on the Skripals, but the OPCW also said that it could not determine if it was from the same batch.[26]

On 5 September 2018 Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said the police had "no doubt" that this incident was connected to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. He said, "we do not believe Dawn and Charlie were deliberately targeted, but became victims as a result of the recklessness in which such a toxic nerve agent was disposed of."[27] The Met Police released a detailed description of the Salisbury poisoning and named the suspects wanted. This went on to state that the investigation into the Amesbury poisoning was ongoing by the Police and the CPS, and further charges relating to Sturgess and Rowley would follow.[28]

Government response[]

On 5 July, Home Secretary Sajid Javid chaired a meeting of the COBR committee to discuss the incident.[29] In the House of Commons later that day, Javid stated the most likely hypothesis was that the Novichok was in an item discarded after the Skripal attack. He accused Russia of using Britain as a "dumping ground for poison".[30]

Interview with Rowley[]

Rowley gave an interview to ITV News on 24 July, stating that he believed a sealed box of a recognisable brand of perfume, which he had found and given to Sturgess, was the source of the Novichok. His partner became sick "within 15 minutes" after spraying the "oily substance" onto her wrists before rubbing them together, under the assumption that it was perfume.[31][32][33] He also stated that he came into contact with the chemical agent after some tipped onto his hands while attaching the plastic spray dispenser to the bottle, but had washed his hands soon after. They had used a knife to open the sealed packaging.[31][32]

References[]

  1. ^ "Two collapse near spy poisoning site". BBC News. 4 July 2018. Retrieved 4 July 2018. 
  2. ^ a b "Amesbury pair poisoned by Novichok". BBC News. Retrieved 4 July 2018. 
  3. ^ "Amesbury substance: Paramedics wore hazmat suits". Sky News. Retrieved 4 July 2018. 
  4. ^ "UPDATE: Woman dies following exposure to nerve agent in Amesbury". Metropolitan Police. Retrieved 2018-07-08. 
  5. ^ "Novichok victim's sister recalls 'goodbye'". 19 July 2018. Retrieved 24 July 2018 – via www.bbc.co.uk. 
  6. ^ Morris, Steven; Bannock, Caroline (10 July 2018). "Man poisoned by novichok regains consciousness". the Guardian. Retrieved 10 July 2018. 
  7. ^ a b Morris, Steven; Dodd, Vikram (11 July 2018). "Amesbury novichok victim 'reveals doctors feared he would die'". the Guardian. Retrieved 15 July 2018. 
  8. ^ Steven Morris (18 July 2018). "Novichok poisonings: police search Salisbury park visited by couple". The Guardian. 
  9. ^ "Amesbury poisoning: 'Very emotional' funeral held for novichok victim Dawn Sturgess". Retrieved 7 August 2018. 
  10. ^ Bullen, Jamie (20 July 2018). "Novichok victim Charlie Rowley discharged from Salisbury hospital three weeks after poisoning". Retrieved 24 July 2018 – via www.telegraph.co.uk. 
  11. ^ Morris, Steven (20 August 2018). "Novichok victim back in hospital with sight problems, says brother". the Guardian. Retrieved 22 August 2018. 
  12. ^ "Novichok victim Charlie Rowley 'feeling positive' and 'hoping to get out of hospital in next two or three weeks'". Retrieved 5 September 2018. 
  13. ^ Agerholm, Harriet (4 July 2018). "Amesbury incident latest: Wiltshire couple were exposed to novichok nerve agent, police confirm". The Independent. Retrieved 5 July 2018. 
  14. ^ a b c "Wiltshire pair poisoned by Novichok nerve agent". BBC News. 4 July 2018. Retrieved 5 July 2018. 
  15. ^ "Poisoned pair 'handled contaminated item'". BBC News. 2018-07-05. Retrieved 2018-07-05. 
  16. ^ Bannock, Caroline; Dodd, Vikram; Morris, Steven (6 July 2018). "Novichok poisonings: search intensifying to find contaminated item". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 July 2018. 
  17. ^ "Updated statement re: Amesbury". Metropolitan Police. 6 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018. 
  18. ^ "No contamination found at John Baker House in Salisbury". Spire FM. 24 July 2018. Retrieved 28 July 2018. 
  19. ^ "UPDATE: Source of nerve agent contamination identified". Metropolitan Police. 13 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018. 
  20. ^ Dodd, Vikram; Morris, Steven (13 July 2018). "Novichok that killed woman came from bottle, police believe". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 July 2018. 
  21. ^ "Amesbury: Novichok found in perfume bottle, says victim's brother". BBC News. 15 July 2018. Retrieved 16 July 2018. 
  22. ^ "OPCW Provides Technical Assistance for Amesbury, UK Incident". Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. 18 July 2018. Retrieved 2 August 2018. 
  23. ^ Hudson, Rebecca (19 July 2018). "Dawn Sturgess inquest opens in Salisbury". Salisbury Journal. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018. 
  24. ^ Tryhorn, Faye (19 July 2018). "Inquest into Novichok victim Dawn Sturgess opened". Spire FM. Archived from the original on 21 July 2018. Retrieved 21 July 2018. 
  25. ^ "Chemical weapons inspectors returning to UK to gather new novichok samples". Retrieved 7 August 2018. 
  26. ^ "Nerve agent used on Skripals 'same one that killed Dawn Sturgess'". South China Morning Post. 4 September 2018. 
  27. ^ Tobin, Olivia (5 September 2018). "Novichok poisoning probe: Police say there is 'no doubt' Novichok victims are linked and Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess were innocent tragic victims". Evening Standard. Retrieved 5 September 2018. 
  28. ^ http://news.met.police.uk/news/counter-terrorism-police-release-images-of-two-suspects-in-connection-with-salisbury-attack-320534
  29. ^ "Amesbury poisoning - LIVE: Government to hold emergency Cobra meeting after novichok nerve agent leaves Wiltshire couple fighting for their life". Independent. Retrieved 5 July 2018. 
  30. ^ "Amesbury poisoning: Russia using UK as 'dumping ground", BBC News, 5 July 2018
  31. ^ a b Evelyn, Rupert (24 July 2018). "Exclusive: Novichok poisoning victim Charlie Rowley reveals perfume gift he gave to partner contained deadly nerve agent". ITV News. Retrieved 25 July 2018. 
  32. ^ a b Steven Morris; Kevin Rawlinson (24 July 2018). "Novichok victim found substance disguised as perfume in sealed box". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 July 2018. 
  33. ^ "Novichok: Victim found poison bottle in branded box". BBC News. 24 July 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2018.