Novichok: Wiltshire Police 'in shock' over nerve agent death

9 July 2018, 14:43

Wiltshire Chief Constable

The Chief Constable of Wiltshire Police says the force is in shock following the death of a woman exposed to the nerve agent Novichok.

Statement from Kier Pritchard, Chief Constable for Wiltshire Police:

“This is the news we hoped would never come. It is with great sadness that we learned yesterday of the tragic death of 44 year old Dawn Sturgess, as reported by AC Neil Basu and the Prime Minister. As a Force, we are all in complete shock and on behalf of all officers, staff and volunteers working for Wiltshire Police, I wish to pass on our sincere condolences to Dawn’s children, her wider family and friends at this terrible time.

I cannot begin to imagine the pain and suffering they must be feeling, coupled with all the questions they clearly need answers to. I know that Dawn’s family have asked the media for privacy at this time. Of course, our thoughts and prayers are also with Dawn’s partner Charlie Rowley, as well as his family and friends. He remains in a critical condition in Salisbury District Hospital. As confirmed by the Counter Terrorism Policing Network, we now know Dawn’s death is being treated as murder. I know this news will affect more people than just those who knew Dawn. In addition to her family and friends, I appreciate it is highly likely this will send a huge shockwave across our communities.

Of course the safety of our public remains of paramount importance to me and all of the agencies involved in this incident. I know the public will be deeply worried and equally as a resident of Wiltshire, I share and fully understand these concerns. I would however like to remind our communities that this tragic development has not changed the Public Health England advice which has been provided by the Chief Medical Officer. This advice is that the risk to the wider public remains low. Please be assured that this is being kept under constant review as further information becomes known.

We continue to support the ongoing investigation in addition to co-ordinating the multi-agency local response. The investigation team continue to work tirelessly to establish the sequence of events. I would urge anyone who has any questions following yesterday’s sad news, to speak to one of our many officers out in the community. If they cannot answer your questions, they will be able to direct you to the most appropriate organisation who can.

As you know, last week we very quickly established a public advice helpline which continues to operate. To date, this line has taken in excess of 350 calls. To remind you, the numbers for you to call are 0800 0920 410 or 0207 158 0124. These are staffed by both police and colleagues from Public Health England.
Throughout this period, and in order to provide ongoing reassurance, we will continue to provide a highly visible policing presence in the local areas. Today, officers on the ground will be joined by members of Public Health England to provide direct advice to anyone concerned. Please do approach us with any questions you may have.
I would also like to take this opportunity to repeat a number of points made earlier today by Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, which include:
• The investigation team are unable to say at this moment, whether the nerve agent found in this incident is linked to the attack on Yulia and Sergei Skripal, but this remains the main line of inquiry.
• The investigation team, with our support, continues to work tirelessly to find out who is responsible for this shocking and barbaric crime.
• CT Police are keen to hear from anyone who may have information that could assist with this investigation and would urge anyone who can help to contact them by calling 0800 789 321.

We will keep you updated as regularly as possible, but please check the Wiltshire Police website for the most up-to-date information.

Finally, I would like to finish by talking about the continual strength and resilience I have seen from local residents and businesses in Amesbury and Salisbury. Since news broke of this major incident, I have spent considerable time in the areas most affected, and whilst people have expressed some concerns to me, I am full of admiration for their continued support, patience and understanding during these challenging times.

Whilst this remains an extraordinary time for Wiltshire, I have every confidence that the communities have the strength to pull through this highly difficult period with the support of all partners.”

Statement from Angus Macpherson, Police and Crime Commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon:

“Foremost in my thoughts are the family and friends of Dawn Sturgess at this terribly sad and difficult time. I send my condolences to them as they attempt to come to terms with what has happened over the last number of days.
My thoughts are also with Dawn’s partner Charlie Rowley who remains critically ill in hospital. Ms Sturgess was an innocent member of the public who should have been able to go about her daily life without becoming an unwilling victim in such an unprecedented, international, incident.

I am horrified and appalled that an illegal and lethal nerve agent has been used on the streets of our county. And while the city of Salisbury has bounced back so resiliently, it saddens me greatly that Ms Sturgess, and now her family, are bearing the devastating impact of this incident.

AC Neil Basu announced today that they are unable to say at this moment that the nerve agent found in this incident is linked to the attack on Yulia and Sergei Skripal. However this remains their main line of enquiry.

CT Officers involved in the ongoing police investigation, supported by Wiltshire Police, are doing all that they can to find the source of this contamination, and to find out who was responsible.

Although I understand the sense of anxiety that will be felt within our communities, it is very important to reiterate that the advice from Public Health England, based on current evidence, is that the risk to the general public as a result of this incident remains low.”