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Amesbury: Two collapse near Russian spy poisoning site

A man and woman are in a critical condition after being exposed to an unknown substance, which counter terrorism officers are investigating.

The pair, believed to be Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, were found unconscious at a house in Amesbury, Wiltshire, on Saturday.

It is understood tests are being carried out on the substance at a government chemical weapons laboratory.

Amesbury is about eight miles from the Salisbury Russian spy poisoning site.

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with Novichok, a suspected military nerve agent, in March.

The substance Novichok was identified by the defence research facility at Porton Down, which is understood to be carrying out tests on the latest substance.

Investigators are trying to work out if the Novichok could have been prepared in Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury, and the Amesbury pair came into contact with its residue.

Muggleton Road, AmesburyPolice have cordoned off a number of areas including Muggleton Road in Amesbury

The government’s emergency committee, Cobra, has met in the Cabinet Office at an official level to discuss the events in Amesbury, which is being “treated with the utmost seriousness”.

A further meeting of the committee will be held on Wednesday evening to hear updates on the situation which was initially treated as a suspected drugs-related incident.

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Police cordon at Queen Elizabeth GardensQueen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury was one of a number of areas cordoned off

The Met said counter terrorism officers are now working with Wiltshire Police “given the recent events in Salisbury”.

Wiltshire Police said it was “open-minded” about the cause after the pair, who are British nationals, were found at the house in Muggleton Road, Amesbury.

Paramedics were called twice to the property, firstly in the morning after Ms Sturgess had collapsed and then later the same day after reports Mr Rowley had also fallen unwell.

While it was not clear whether a crime had been committed, the force said, a number of places in Amesbury and Salisbury known to have been frequented by the couple had been cordoned off.

It said the public can expect to see an increased police presence in and around Amesbury and Salisbury.

“It was initially believed that the two patients fell ill after using possibly heroin or crack cocaine from a contaminated batch of drugs,” Wiltshire Police said.

“They are both currently receiving treatment for suspected exposure to an unknown substance at Salisbury District Hospital,” it added.

Police outside Boots in Amesbury
The Amesbury branch of Boots has closed on Wednesday morning as a “precautionary measure”
Amesbury Baptist Church, AmesburyThe pair are believed to have attended a family fun day at Amesbury Baptist Church

Mr Rowley and Ms Sturgess are believed to have attended a family fun day at Amesbury Baptist Church on Saturday afternoon before they were found unconscious in the property they had just moved into.

Roy Collins, church secretary, said “nobody else has suffered any ill-effects” from attending the community event and “there was nothing going on that was nefarious”.

“There have been no reports of any other incidents,” he said.

“We are all quite puzzled and shocked – naturally the connection with Salisbury and recent events there mean there is a heightened public interest.”

Boots has closed its Amesbury store as “a precautionary measure” to allow police to carry out an investigation, a spokesperson confirmed.

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Source: www.bbc.com

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