Fears UK policeman exposed to nerve agent

The British Government has called on Russian Federation to explain "exactly what has gone on" after a British couple fell into a coma following exposure to the same type of Soviet-era nerve agent used in March to poison a former spy and his daughter.

Police said they have established that the couple, who remain in a critical condition in hospital, were exposed to the nerve agent after "handling a contaminated item".

Investigators wearing camouflage protective clothing entered the John Baker House assisted-living accommodation in Salisbury, where mother-of-three Sturgess lives, after they took a sample from the outside of the building on Friday.

The emergency department at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon where the officer initially attended had been closed but reopened at about 22:00 BST.

The Metropolitan Police said: "Due to the unique challenges involved with this operation, police activity is expected to take weeks and months to complete".

"It's not looking like a new attack", said Hamish De Bretton-Gordon, a former commanding officer of the British Army's chemical and biological weapons unit.

Britain and its allies have condemned Russian Federation over poisonings, calling it the first use of chemical weapons on European soil since World War II.

It was unclear how the 45-year-old man and the 44-year-old woman came into contact with the nerve agent, and there was "nothing in their background" to suggest the pair were targeted, the official said.

The town is just 11 kilometers away from Salisbury, where ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were poisoned in March.

In the latest wrinkle in the case, a police officer has now sought medical attention and was transferred to Salisbury District Hospital, "which has the ability to carry out the appropriate specialist tests", a Salisbury District Hospital spokesperson said in a statement.

Police said, "We are not in a position to say whether the nerve agent was from the same batch that the Skripals were exposed to".

The officer added that after tests at the Porton Down facility, which assisted in diagnosing the poisoning in Salisbury, scientists recognized the use of "the same nerve agent that contaminated both Yulia and Sergei Skripal".

Certain suspect sites have been cordoned off to protect the public. The British Home Secretary has demanded that Russian Federation explain how a nerve agent that only its government reportedly had access to has shown up a second time on British soil.

Police on the scene at Muggleton Road where a major incident was declared after a man and woman were exposed to an unknown substance on July 4, 2018 in Amesbury, England. "The possibility that the two investigations might be linked is clearly a key line of inquiry for police". From initial assessment it was thought that the two patients had fallen ill after using drugs from a potentially contaminated batch.

Russian Federation said Thursday it had offered assistance to Britain with the Skripal investigation, but that Britain refused the offer.

Police cordoned off a home in Amesbury, believed to be Rowley's, and other places the pair visited, including a church, a pharmacy and a park in Salisbury near where the Skripals were found.

  • Joey Payne