A British woman has died, days after being exposed to a nerve agent close to a city where a Russian former spy and his daughter were poisoned with the same chemical four months ago, prompting police to launch a murder investigation.
Dawn Sturgess, 44, died in hospital on Sunday after falling ill on June 30.
Her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, who also fell ill after being exposed to the nerve agent, remains in a critical condition in hospital.
Scotland Yard said they have launched a murder investigation – the second major probe involving the nerve agent this year, following the case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March.
Tests have revealed that the Amesbury couple were exposed to Novichok, a nerve agent developed by the Soviet military during the Cold War in what is the first known offensive use of such a chemical weapon on European soil since World War II.
Security services believe the couple were inadvertently exposed to the same nerve agent used to attack Sergei Skripal and his daughter four months ago.
The UK government accused Russia of using British streets, parks and towns as “dumping grounds for poison” after the incident.
“This is shocking and tragic news. Dawn leaves behind her family, including three children, and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this extremely difficult time,” assistant commissioner Neil Basu, head of UK counter-terrorism policing, said,
“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,” he said.
Prime Minister Theresa May said she was appalled and shocked by the death of Sturgess.
“Police and security officials are working urgently to establish the facts of this incident, which is now being investigated as a murder. The government is committed to providing full support to the local community as it deals with this tragedy,” she said.
A postmortem will be scheduled to take place in due course.
Britain had demanded that Russia provide details about the Novichok nerve agent attack on the after its citizens were struck down with the same poison.
Russia, which is currently hosting the soccer World Cup, has denied any involvement in the March incident and suggested the British security services had carried out that attack to stoke anti-Moscow hysteria.