Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Amesbury poisoning victims fell ill after handling contaminated item

Police officers stand at a cordon around an area of grass after two people in their 40s were poisoned in the UK. Source Getty ImagesMore Police officers stand at a cordon around an area of grass after two people in their 40s were poisoned in the UK. Source Getty ImagesMore
Pablo Mccormick | 06 July, 2018, 18:29

"I have received test results from Porton Down (military research centre) which show that the two people have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok", Neil Basu, Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officer, told reporters.

The two Britons, a 44-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man, fell critically ill after handling what police called a contaminated item near the site of the March attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Shortly after police confirmed on Wednesday that a couple in their 40s were critically ill after being exposed to the same nerve agent that almost killed former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March, the Russian embassy in the Netherlands tweeted a forceful denial of involvement.

Russian officials are already denying any connection to a second incident of Novichok poisoning in the Salisbury area of England.

Russian Federation has denied any involvement in either incident.

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"It is completely unacceptable for our people to be either deliberate or accidental targets, or for our streets, our parks, our towns to be dumping grounds for poison".

The two patients "are both now receiving treatment for suspected exposure to an unknown substance at Salisbury District Hospital", a police statement said.

"It's very hard to say how it would be linked unless you know something about the people who've become the casualties", Major General Chip Chapman, former head of counter-terrorism for the Ministry of Defence, said.

He added: "We have taken a very robust approach to decontamination and there is no evidence that either the man or the woman in hospital visited any of the places that were visited by the Skripals".

"Our strong working assumption is that the couple came into contact with the nerve agent in a different location to the sites which have been part of the original clean-up operation". But he also said investigators do not believe that Sturgess and Rowley were meant to be targeted in the latest incident.

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He said it has not yet been possible to ascertain whether the nerve agent is from the same batch of Novichok.

"What we are clear on.is that this is the exact same nerve agent from the Novichok family", he said.

The proximity to the previous incident, if nothing else, has raised sufficient alarm to draw in counter terrorism officers from Britain's biggest police force.

"The Russian state could put this "wrong" right, they could tell us what happened, what they did and fill in some of the significant gaps that we are trying to pursue", Wallace told BBC radio. They may return, police said.

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

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Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova urged police not to be led by the "dirty political game" and said she was confident London would have to apologise to Russia.

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