British counter-terrorism detectives announced Friday they believe they have found the source of a Russian nerve agent that killed a woman and left a man critically ill.
Dawn Sturgess, 44, died Sunday after falling ill June 30. Her partner, Charlie Rowley, 45, was also hospitalized as critically ill, but has since regained consciousness and remains in serious but stable condition.
Detectives investigating the case as murder found a small bottle in Rowley’s house Wednesday. Testing at the Defence, Science and Technology Lab confirmed the nerve agent Novichok was inside it.
Police are now trying to determine how the bottle got to the house and whether the poison was from the same batch that contaminated former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
“This is clearly a significant and positive development,” said Neil Basu, head of the United Kingdom’s Counter Terrorism Policing, which has 100 detectives working on the case. “However, we cannot guarantee that there isn’t any more of the substance left and cordons will remain in place for some considerable time.”
He declined to provide further details about the bottle.
The United Kingdom has invited independent chemical-weapons experts to visit next week and independently confirm the nerve agent suspected in the case.
Peter Wilson, the country's permanent representative to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), asked for the group's assistance, according to a statement from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.
Experts will be able to collect samples and analyze them at reputable international labs designed by the organization, the statement said.
The effort is part of the United Kingdom's commitment to upholding OPCW's integrity overseeing a global ban under the Chemical Weapons Convention.
Sturgess and Rowley fell ill June 30 about 10 miles from Salisbury, where the Skripals were poisoned with the same nerve agent on March 4. Britain blamed Russia for the Skripals’ poisoning.
“The working assumption would be that these are victims of either the consequence of the previous attack, or something else, but not that they were directly targeted,” Security Minister Ben Wallace told the BBC.
Russia has denied any involvement in the events.
“Russia has categorically denied and continues to categorically deny the possibility of any kind of involvement to what was happening there,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters July 5. “The British side has not presented any evidence of Russia’s involvement in this, besides unfounded accusations.”