A British woman from Amesbury died after she was exposed by the nerve agent Novichok on Sunday. That is the same nerve agent that was used in an assassination attempt on a former Russian spy in England only about 11 miles away from the latest poisoning.
Dawn Sturgess, 44, died after she was exposed to Novichok on June 30 in western England, just a few miles from where Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter were attacked with the same poison four months ago.
The death of Sturgess was being investigated as a murder, police said in a statement.
Prime Minister Theresa May said she was appalled and shocked by the death.
Police said they were investigating how Sturgess and a 45-year-old man, named by media as Charlie Rowley, came across an item contaminated with Novichok, which was developed by the Soviet military during the Cold War.
The March attack on the Skripals prompted the biggest Western expulsion of Russian diplomats since the Cold War as allies sided with Britain’s view that Moscow was either responsible or had lost control of the nerve agent.
After Sturgess’ death on Sunday, Britain’s interior minister, Sajid Javid, said the “desperately sad news only strengthens our resolve to find out exactly what has happened.”
The head of UK Counter Terrorism policing, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, said Sturgess, a mother of three, died as the result of “an outrageous, reckless and barbaric act.”
The two Britons were taken ill on June 30 in Amesbury, a town in southwest England, 11 km (7 miles) from Salisbury, where Skripal and his daughter Yulia were attacked.
The Britons were initially thought to have taken an overdose of heroin or crack cocaine.
But tests by the Porton Down military research center showed they had been exposed to Novichok. Britain has notified the global chemical weapons watchdog, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).
Further tests of samples from Sturgess and the man showed they were exposed to the nerve agent after touching a contaminated item with their hands, police said on Sunday.
Javid said earlier on Sunday that police had a working hypothesis that the two poisoning incidents were connected.
The incident like the spring poisoning of the Skripals remains under investigation by the British Counter-Terrorism Policing Unit. They are attempting to ascertain whether the two cases are linked.
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