Amesbury Novichok poisoning victims were exposed to 'substantially higher' dose of Russian nerve agent than Sergei Skripal and daughter

Mum-of-three Dawn, 44, died on Sunday and her partner Charlie, 45, is fighting for life after they handled an item contaminated by the killer chemical in Salisbury.

It comes four months after former KGB spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were critically ill after coming into contact with the deadly substance in the sleepy Wiltshire city.

The Kremlin denies claims it tried to assassinate Sergei and is responsible for the death of Dawn.

Murder cops are still trying to find a case they think held the nerve that killed her.

Speaking outside New Scotland Yard yesterday, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said: "It is utterly appalling that a British citizen has died having being exposed to a Novichok nerve agent.

"But we're determined to find out how Dawn and her partner, Charlie Rowley, came into contact with such a deadly substance and will do everything we can to bring those responsible to justice.

"Their reaction was so severe, it resulted in Dawn's death and Charlie being critically ill.

"This means that they must have got a high dose and our hypothesis is that they must have handled a container we are seeking."

What we know so far…

  • Dawn Sturgess, 44, died on Sunday night after exposure to Russian nerve agent Novichok
  • Sturgess and partner Charlie Rowley, 45, were rushed to Salisbury District Hospital after collapsing in Amesbury on June 30
  • They are believed to have handled a contaminated substance in Salisbury on June 29
  • Charlie remains in a critical condition in hospital
  • Police have launched a murder probe into Sturgess’ death, months after ex-spy Sergei Skripal and Yulia Skripal were targeted with Novichok in the same city
  • PM Theresa May said she was ‘appalled and shocked’ by the news
  • Home Sec Sajid Javid is ‘determined to bring the killers to justice

Dawn and Charlie may have picked up a Novichok container while visiting Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury on June 29.

They then passed it between themselves and the deadly nerve agent leaked onto their hands and absorbed through their skin.

Detectives believe either Dawn or Charlie may have have carried it home as they possibly thought it was valuable and could have dumped it in a bin.

Yesterday Dawn's heartbroken dad told of his devastation at her death.

A man believed to be the father of Dawn spoke from behind the door at a terraced house in Durrington saying: "I'm devastated."

The home is not far from the flat where Dawn and her partner collapsed last Saturday.

Investigators believe Ms Sturgess and her partner may have found a vial or syringe used to transport the toxin used in the attack on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March.

The father-daughter pair survived the attack, with officials saying they were appalled innocent members of the public were now implicated in the international incident.

And the family of critically-ill Charlie now fear the worst, saying he could just have days to live.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "I am appalled and shocked by the death of Dawn Sturgess, and my thoughts and condolences go to her family and loved ones.

"Police and security officials are working urgently to establish the facts…now being investigated as a murder."

Angus Macpherson, Wiltshire police and crime commissioner, said: "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 been used on the streets of our county.

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.

"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.

Dawn, who lived in John Baker House, a homeless hostel in Salisbury, was seen buying alcohol from her local cornershop just hours before she fell ill on June 30.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down confirmed to police that the couple had both been exposed to Novichok.

Further tests of samples from Dawn and the man showed that they were exposed to the nerve agent after touching a contaminated item with their hands, but the source has not yet been established.

Police said there was no evidence that they visited any of the sites that were decontaminated following the attempted murders of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March this year.

Police said that the investigation into the attempted murders of the Skripals was ongoing as detectives continue to assess available evidence.

A post mortem will be scheduled to establish the exact cause of death in due course.

Staff at Salisbury District Hospital said they “did everything they could” to save Dawn.

Anyone with any information that could assist with this investigation should contact the police by calling 0800 789 321.

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