Another UK couple have been poisoned by the same toxin, Novichok, that nearly killed Sergei and Yulia Skripal back in March. The local couple, Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, are local Brits and are not known to have been in foreign service to another country. They were found unconscious at Amesbury, just 8 miles from Salisbury, the place where the Skripals were located.
Update as of 7/8/2018: Dawn Sturgess has died. Charlie Rowley remains in critical condition.
Neil Basu, Head of UK Counter Terrorism Policing: “Test results show that two people have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok” https://t.co/33KkfCpYZs
— Terrorism Police UK (@TerrorismPolice) July 4, 2018
At first, police thought the two people who were foaming at the mouth might have been taking cocaine or heroin. But samples were taken and four days after they were found, early Wednesday, Wiltshire Police declared a “major incident” and began cordoning off the places where the couple had gone.
The couple were placed at the same hospital that treated the Skripals, both of whom were released from the hospital to an unknown location for their safety, although doctors have not released a prognosis for their future.
Sam Hobson, a friend of the couple, told the Associated Press that he was with the couple on Saturday when they fell ill. He said Rowley told him that “Dawn was complaining of a headache, so she went to have a bath and then he had a thump in there and she was on the floor having a fit and foaming at the mouth.”
Hours later, Hobson said Rowley was packing his belongings to visit Sturgess in the hospital when “he started sweating really badly, so he had a shower, and then he went to his room for a bit, got to rest, come out and he was a bit tired and sat down for a bit and then that’s when he got up and started acting weird and he said that he felt he had been poisoned and that, then he was rocking against the wall making funny noises and his eyes were wide open, glazed, red and pinpricked and he was just sweating, dribbling, making weird noises, I was speaking to him and was getting no response.”
The day before, Hobson said he and the couple were in Salisbury’s Queen Elizabeth Gardens, not far from where the Skripals were found foaming at the mouth and slipping in and out of consciousness.
“They must have picked up something … and got contaminated because no one else that we were with had been poisoned and no one else is sharing the symptoms,” Hobson said. “It’s just them two.”
The couple’s church, their pharmacy, the park, their home, all have been cordoned off as a precaution.
The UK government blamed Russia for the first incident, and expelled several diplomats. Novichok was developed by Russia, but many are now skeptical that they are behind this latest exposure. Novichok has numerous strains, and officials are unsure which strain Burgess and Rowley came in contact with. It is one of the most lethal nerve agents known.
Some are pointing the finger back at Porton Down, the chemical weapons facility where the test results were determined. The Porton Down facility is not far from both incidents.
Unfortunately, first responders, not knowing what they are up against, don’t take the important precautions.
Video emerges of a man – exposed to a mystery substance in Wiltshire – being taken into an ambulance. Counter-terrorism police are investigating the incidenthttps://t.co/BcOgAEeBlY pic.twitter.com/ar9cMOCCtq
— ITV News (@itvnews) July 4, 2018
Anyone by this stage who thinks #Novichok has anything to do with Russia has a brain the size of a pea.
Smart money is on Porton down having some kind of issue.
— Dan #LFC #Socialism (@Danielbjones6) July 4, 2018
It is one thing – and an outrageous thing – to poison a former agent and his daughter, entirely innocent as they were. It is a completely different order that two British civilians, with no connection to Russia, are left fighting for their lives after exposure to novichok
— Jane Merrick (@janemerrick23) July 4, 2018