A mother-of-three has died after she and her partner were exposed to Novichok in Amesbury.
44 year old Dawn Sturgess passed away last night (Sunday 8th July) in hospital in Salisbury.
Her partner Charlie Rowley, who's 45, is still in a critical condition after the couple fell ill last Saturday.
Tests have revealed the pair were exposed to the nerve agent after touching a contaminated item with their hands.
The investigation is being led by detectives from the Counter Terrorism Policing Network and around 100 detectives are working round the clock alongside colleagues from Wiltshire Police.
Dr Christine Blanshard, from Salisbury District Hospital, says Dawn's death is "desperately sad".
Dr Blanshard gave this statement:
(Above: The Home Secretary visited Amesbury yesterday as part of efforts to try and reassure the local community - picture credited to Wiltshire Police)
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the head of UK Counter Terrorism Policing, said:
"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.
"The 45-year-old man who fell ill with Dawn remains critically ill in hospital and our thoughts are with him and his family as well.
"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.
"Detectives will continue with their painstaking and meticulous work to gather all the available evidence so that we can understand how two citizens came to be exposed with such a deadly substance that tragically cost Dawn her life.
"Dawn's family has asked the media to kindly respect their privacy at this difficult time."
Wiltshire Police's Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said:
“Today is the day we hoped would never come. It is with great sadness that we have learned of the tragic death of 44 year old Dawn Sturgess, as reported by AC Neil Basu and the Prime Minister. On behalf of all officers, staff and volunteers working for Wiltshire Police I wish to pass on our condolences to the family and friends of Dawn at this terrible time.
“I cannot begin to imagine the pain and suffering they must be feeling, coupled with all the questions they need answers to.
“As confirmed by the Counter Terrorism Policing Network this evening, Dawn’s death is now being treated as murder.
“I know this news will affect more people than just those who knew Dawn – it will affect our communities right across the county. Understandably, this is likely to raise the level of concern in Amesbury and Salisbury.
“I would like to remind our communities that this tragic development has not changed the Public Health England advice, which is that the risk to the wider public remains low. This is being kept under constant review as further information becomes known.
“We continue to support the ongoing Counter Terrorism Policing Network investigation in addition to co-ordinating the multi-agency local response. The investigation team continue to work tirelessly to establish the sequence of events that have led to this tragic incident. Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the 45 year old man who remains in hospital in a critical condition and his family and friends at this most difficult of times.
“I would urge anyone in either Amesbury or Salisbury who have questions, following today’s sad news, to speak to one of our officers out and about in the community. If they cannot answer your questions, they should be able to direct you to the most appropriate organisation who can.
“Our helplines are also open – please call us if you have any concerns. The numbers are 0800 0920 410 or 0207 158 0124.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to repeat a number of points made by Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu from the Counter Terrorism Policing Network, which include:
- CT Police are not yet in a position to say whether the nerve agent was from the same batch that the Skripals were exposed to.
- The investigation into the attempted murders of the Skripals is ongoing as detectives continue to assess all the evidence available
- The possibility that the two investigations might be linked is clearly a key line of inquiry for police. However, it is important that the investigation is led by the evidence available and the facts alone
- CT Police are keen to hear from anyone who may have information that could assist with this investigation and would urge anyone to help to contact them by calling 0800 789 321.
“We will keep you updated as regularly as possible but please check our website – www.wiltshire.police.uk for the most up-to-date information.”
Angus Macpherson, Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon, said:
"Foremost in my thoughts are the family and friends of Dawn Sturgess at this terribly sad and difficult time. I send my condolences to them as they attempt to come to terms with what has happened over the last number of days.
“Ms Sturgess was an innocent member of the public who should have been able to go about her daily life without becoming an unwilling victim in such an unprecedented, international, incident.
“I am horrified and appalled that an illegal and lethal nerve agent has used on the streets of our county. And while the city of Salisbury has bounced back so resiliently, it saddens me greatly that Ms Sturgess, and now her family, are bearing the devastating impact of this incident.
“Officers involved in the ongoing police investigation, led by Counter Terrorism Policing and supported by Wiltshire Police, are doing all that they can to find the source of this contamination, and to find out who was responsible.
"Although I understand the sense of anxiety that will be felt within our communities, it is important to reiterate that the advice from Public Health England, based on current evidence, is that the risk to the general public as a result of this incident remains low.”
Baroness Scott of Bybrook OBE, leader of Wiltshire Council, said:
“Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with the family and friends of Dawn Sturgess following her death in such tragic circumstances. We must acknowledge the hard work and outstanding commitment of the staff at Salisbury District Hospital who worked tirelessly to treat Ms Sturgess following exposure to the nerve agent Novichok. We must remember that Mr Rowley remains in hospital, and is receiving the best possible care and treatment, and our thoughts are also with him and his relatives and friends at this time.
“Having a death occur in our local community; particularly in such extraordinary circumstances will undoubtedly affect local residents and we will continue to support the community and our partners in any way we can whilst the police carry out their investigation into this dreadful crime. I hope that the media will respect the privacy of Dawn Sturgess’s family following this terrible tragedy.”