On Saturday 30th June, Dawn Sturgess, 44, and Charlie Rowley, 45, became critically ill after being exposed to the nerve agent Novichok. The South West Ambulance Service arrived at 10.15 am to find Sturgess collapsed. Moments later, they found Rowley in the same state, at approximately 3.30pm.
Novichok is reported to be the deadliest series of nerve agents ever produced, and has detrimental effects on the human body. The nerve agent prevents the heart and diaphragm from functioning properly, which results in cardiac and respiratory arrest. In this particular case, the effects were apparent. A friend of Mr Rowley stated that he found him in a “[zombie-like]” state. Initially, doctors believed that the victims fell ill from contaminated drugs, but further analysis of the samples revealed that Novichok was in fact used.
This is the second incident in the UK involving Novichok. Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were targeted by the agent on March 4th of this year. Neil Basu, the head of counter- terrorism in the UK, said there is no evidence so far that Sturgess and Rowley visited areas that had been decontaminated in the Skripal case. He also mentioned that it is still not known whether the two events are linked or not.
England’s chief medical officer, Professor Sally Davies, announced that the risk of contamination to the UK public is low. However, those who have visited the area are advised to wash their clothes, shoes and other personal belongings. Picking up any unknown items should be avoided at all costs by the public. Areas visited by the victims in the wake of the incident have also been blocked off.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid informed the UK public that 100 counter- terrorism officers were working with Wiltshire police. He demanded that the “Russian state comes forward and explains exactly what has gone on.”
The latest update on the situation from Basu is that “both patients remain in a critical condition.”