Police say Britons were exposed to nerve agent

05 July, 2018, 14:30 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • 2 people exposed to unknown substance near Salisbury

"I have received test results from Porton Down [military research centre] which show that the two people have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok", Neil Basu, Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officer, told reporters.

He said that there is no evidence that the latest individuals were targeted in any way, noting that there is nothing in their background to suggest that they would be targeted.

Russian Federation has said it does not have such nerve agents, did not develop Novichok, and President Vladimir Putin dismissed as nonsense the notion that Moscow would have poisoned Skripal and his 33-year-old daughter.

Public Health England said it did not believe there was a "significant health risk" to the people in the area.

The couple, a 45-year-old man and a 44-year-old woman, were discovered unconscious at a house in a quiet, newly-built area in Amesbury, a village near the prehistoric Stonehenge monument.

Both are still in a critical condition and are at Salisbury District Hospital - the same facility where the Skripals were treated. Doctors say they don't know the long-term prognosis.

The poisoning of former spy Sergei Skripal had sparked a major diplomatic row with Russian Federation.

Police cordoned off the building and other places the two people visited before falling ill, but health officials said there was not believed to be a wider risk.

Basu said it would be up to scientists to determine if the Novichock was from the same batch which was used against the Skripals.

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A man in Amesbury, Sam Hobson, 29, told AFP he was a friend of the pair and said he saw the man fall ill.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid is chairing a meeting of the British government's COBRA emergency committee on Thursday morning.

"They are both in a critical condition", the statement said.

Wiltshire Police initially thought that the couple had taken contaminated crack cocaine or heroin, but then made a decision to carry out further tests and on Wednesday declared a major incident.

But Wiltshire police say they are keeping an open mind about the cause of the pair's collapse, and it was not yet clear if a crime has been committed.

Rowley was lying on his back in a stretcher as the paramedic in a white protective suit pushed it inside as two police officers watched on.

Police said the couple was local to Amesbury, eight miles (13 kilometers) from Salisbury, where Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned with a nerve agent on March 4.

Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills today confirmed Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley remain in hospital.

Prime Minister Theresa May has blamed the Russian state for the attack on the Skripals - an assertion the Kremlin denies - and Wallace said the Russian government could "put this wrong right" by providing details about the Skripal poisoning.

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