In Depth

Who killed Dawn Sturgess? What we know so far

Mother-of-three dies after being exposed to same nerve agent used to poison Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal

Police have launched a murder inquiry following the death of Dawn Sturgess on Sunday, just over a week after she was exposed to the nerve agent novichok.

The 44-year-old, a mother of three, died in hospital yesterday evening after falling ill on 30 June in the Wiltshire town of Amesbury.

Her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, who was also exposed to the nerve agent, remains critically ill in hospital, Al Jazeera reports.

Police confirmed last week that the pair had been poisoned by the same agent used in nearby Salisbury against Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia. The Skripals have both recovered from that attack, in March. 

The BBC reports that authorities are “still trying to work out how Sturgess and Rowley were exposed to the nerve agent, although tests have confirmed they touched a contaminated item with their hands”.

Police said nobody else had sought medical help for symptoms of novichok poisoning.

Investigators have stressed that the latest poisoning is unlikely to have been deliberate, but have nevertheless opened a murder investigation, which is being led by detectives from the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network.

Confirming Sturgess’ death, Neil Basu, head of UK counterterrorism policing, said: “Dawn leaves behind her family, including three children, and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this extremely difficult time.

“This terrible news has only served to strengthen our resolve to identify and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for what I can only describe as an outrageous, reckless and barbaric act.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said on Thursday that “it is unacceptable for our people to be deliberate or accidental targets”, adding that he expects “further disinformation from the Kremlin” on the attack.

Where had the Amesbury pair been?

They are believed to have attended a family fun day at Amesbury Baptist Church on Saturday afternoon.

The church is one of a number of locations in Amesbury and Salisbury that have now been cordoned off by police, in an echo of the Skripal case.

Church secretary Roy Collins said: “Last weekend we held a community fundraiser and we understand this may well be the last event this couple went to in public.

“We are all quite puzzled and shocked. Naturally, the connection with Salisbury and recent events there mean there is a heightened public interest.

“We are praying for the couple. One of our members knows them and clearly there are concerns for them and any others in the community.”

Collins added that around 200 people attended the fundraiser, including many families and children, but that “nobody else has suffered any ill effects”.

The Salisbury connection

Amesbury is roughly eight miles from Salisbury, where the Skripals were poisoned.

The former double agent and his 33-year-old daughter were both in a critical condition for weeks after being found slumped on a bench in Salisbury city centre on 4 March.

They underwent treatment in Salisbury District Hospital, before being released separately and taken to undisclosed locations.

Officers initially believed the pair in Amesbury fell ill “after using heroin or crack cocaine from a contaminated batch of drugs”, but then confirmed that they had been exposed to novichok, Sky News reports.

The BBC’s Duncan Kennedy notes that it seems “like an incredible coincidence for another incident like this to occur” in the area.

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