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UK nerve agent incident: What we know
July 21 2018, 08:02 | Irvin Gilbert
UK police declare ‘major incident’ over ‘unknown substance’
British counter-terrorism police have begun an investigation into a "major incident" after a couple fell ill from possible exposure to an unknown substance in the southern English city of Amesbury near Salisbury. Police did not name the couple, but friends have named them as Charlie Rowley 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44.
Since the Russian government originally had the only samples of this, British authorities, including Prime Minister Theresa May, have concluded that there can only be two options: either Russia is behind the attacks or they let their custom-made nerve agent fall into the hands of someone else.
Moscow denies any involvement in the original attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia and has cast allegations of Russian involvement as part of a sophisticated plot to damage its reputation and hosting of the soccer World Cup.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid will chair a meeting of the Government's Cobra emergencies committee on Thursday, Downing Street said. "It is now time that the Russian state comes forward and explains what has gone on".
The incident happened just a short way away from where the Salisbury nerve agent attack took place earlier this year.
Wiltshire Police said they were initially believed to have fallen ill after using crack cocaine or heroin from a contaminated batch. Britain has notified the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Police did not point to any individuals or nations in the more recent case, with Basu saying "we are not in a position to say whether the nerve agent was from the same batch that the Skripals were exposed to". They did not elaborate.
The Royal pair had hoped to fix the town's image and tourist industry following the nerve agent attack against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter.
The police said they suspected the nerve agent may have been smeared on a front door handle in liquid form.
Matthew Dean told Ian Payne that the two people exposed to the nerve agent Novichok in Amesbury have had "complex, hard lives". "We're working extremely hard to try to understand the circumstances, the chronology". Basu said that there is no evidence that the new victims visited areas that had been decontaminated in the wake of the Skripal case. Police were then informed of the pair's condition. An ambulance was called to a residence in Amesbury following the woman collapsed shortly after 10 a.m. Saturday morning, and another ambulance was called that afternoon in response to the collapse of the man. "This will be continually assessed as further information becomes known", said Public Health England in a statement.
Andrea Sella, professor of inorganic chemistry at University College London, said Novichok nerve agents were created to be quite persistent and did not decompose quickly.