July 9, 2018 11:51 am
Updated: July 10, 2018 11:59 am

U.K. nerve agent victims handled Novichok container, subjected to a ‘high dose,’ police say

ABOVE: Investigation underway after suspected Novichok poisoning victim in the UK dies


LONDON – British police said Monday they believe the latest victims of poisoning by a nerve agent must have handled the material’s container and been subjected to a “high dose” of the lethal poison.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said the death of 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess on Sunday shows that she and partner Charlie Rowley, 45, were exposed to a large quantity of Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent produced in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

READ MORE: British woman dies after exposure to nerve agent in Amesbury, U.K.

Basu said the working theory is that their exposure was linked to the earlier Novichok attack in March on ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who have both survived despite extended hospitalizations.

WATCH: Russian parliament deputy says Russia should not explain ‘death of drug addicts and alcoholics’ after Novichok death

Britain has blamed Russia for the poisonings, but Moscow has strongly denied any involvement.

The wide investigation is now a homicide inquiry. Basu expressed sorrow for the death of Sturgess, who had three children.

WATCH: U.K. Defence Secretary says Russia ‘committed an attack’ leading to death of woman from Novichok

“Her death has only served to strengthen the resolve of the investigations team,” he said, saying the immediate police priority is to find any container that may be the source of the Novichok.

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He said no one else in the Amesbury and Salisbury region where the couple lived in southwestern England has shown any sign of Novichok poisoning.

READ MORE: Here’s how Novichok nerve agent that nearly killed ex-Russian spy may be culprit in recent U.K. poisoning

More than 100 police are working to try and search all areas where Sturgess and Rowley had been before they became ill nine days ago. The search is focused on their homes and a park in Salisbury.

Rowley remains in critical condition in a Salisbury hospital.

WATCH: British police say couple “handled contaminated item”

Britain blames the Russian state for the attack on Sergei Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter – an allegation Moscow has repeatedly denied.

A Kremlin spokesman Monday expressed condolences over Sturgess’ death.

Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Moscow “is deeply concerned” over the poisoning cases in Britain. Peskov added that such attacks present a danger not only inside the U.K., but also in Europe as a whole.

READ MORE: British police officer cleared after being tested for nerve agent exposure

Peskov said that linking Russia to the poisoning would be “absurd.”

WATCH: Theresa May offers condolences to Novichok victim, says murder investigation ongoing

Asked whether the death could cloud the upcoming U.S.-Russia summit in Helsinki next week, Peskov replied that the poisoning “has no relation” to the meeting. He said, “It’s Britain’s problem and the problem of how interested Britain is in a real investigation.”

LISTEN: Dr. Arne Kislenko joins Danielle Smith to discuss the nerve agent Novichok

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Moscow says London has declined its offers for a joint investigation into the poisonings.

Maria Danilova in Moscow contributed to this report.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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