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Novichok murder inquiry police appeal for public's help

Dawn Sturgess has died after being poisoned by the Novichok nerve agent Photo:

Police investigating the death of the woman who died after she and her partner were exposed to the chemical nerve agent Novichok in Wiltshire have released more information about their investigation.

Dawn Sturgess, a 44-year-old mother-of-three, died in hospital on Sunday. She was being treated at the Salisbury District Hospital for Novichok poisoning. Her death has sparked a murder inquiry. She and her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, fell ill at his home in Amesbury on Saturday 30th June. He is still in a critical condition in hospital.

The Head of UK Counter Terrorism Policing, Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, has said it is believed that the couple must have received a 'high dose' of Novichok when they handled a vessel of some sort which contained the substance. It is still unknown what that container was and where exactly the couple came into contact with it.

A hundred officers spent the weekend searching the areas the couple are known to have visited in the 48 hours before becoming ill in a bid to find the mystery object. They focused on Dawn’s address at John Baker House in Salisbury; Charlie’s address in Muggleton Road, Amesbury; and Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu appealed for anyone who recently came into contact with the couple - in the days and hours leading up to them being taken ill - to come forward.

Officers have already taken a red Ford Transit van, which Charlie Rowley was known to have travelled in on the day he fell ill, to the government laboratory at Porton Down for testing. Meanwhile 21 people who have come forward with concerns that they had been exposed to Novichok have been given the all clear.

Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley came into contact with a 'high dose' of Novichok

"It is both shocking and utterly appalling that a British citizen has died having being exposed to a Novichok nerve agent.

"But make no mistake, we’re determined to find out how Dawn and her partner, Charlie Rowley, came into contact with such a deadly substance; and we will do everything we possibly can to bring those responsible to justice.

"Our immediate thoughts and prayers are with Dawn’s family as they come to terms with the loss of a loved-one in such unimaginable and cruel circumstances.

"Dawn was just 44 years old and from Durrington, Wiltshire. She leaves behind two grown-up sons; aged 19 and 23; an 11-year-old daughter; and her mother and father.

"Our thoughts also remain with Dawn’s partner, 45-year-old Charlie Rowley, who was also exposed to the nerve agent and remains critically ill in hospital.

"Both Dawn and Charlie’s families, understandably, have asked for the media to respect their privacy at this very difficult time.

– Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, Head of UK Counter Terrorism Policing

At the weekend, the Home Secretary Sajid Javid visited Wiltshire to speak to those involved in the investigation for himself. The local MP, John Glen, who represents the Salisbury constituency said that he had been speaking to the Government's COBRA emergencies committee and shared with them the reactions of his constituents to the ongoing situation.

Police cordons in the areas which are being searched are likely to remain for quite some time for reasons of public safety and for the investigation to progress.

However the police are still unable to specify if the nerve agent the Amesbury couple came into contact with is the same one involved in the attack on Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury back in March.

"Clearly, everyone Dawn and Charlie were in contact with prior to them falling ill is a focus for our inquiry. The more we know about their exact movements, the better, so please contact.

"We continue to work extremely closely with public health and scientific experts to continually monitor and assess the ongoing levels of risk to the public as the investigation progresses.

"Whilst I simply can’t offer guarantees, last night Public Health England emphasised that the risk to the general public at this time remains low.

"I do, however, recognise there will still be people in the local area with concerns, but there is detailed advice which can be found on the Public Health England website. Part of this advice is not to pick up any strange items such as needles, syringes or unusual containers.

"It’s also important to note that whilst 21 other people have presented with concerns they have all been screened and given the all-clear.

"I would like to thank the public for their ongoing support and patience while this important work continues in Salisbury and Amesbury. The people of Wiltshire have shown tremendous stoicism.

– Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu

The Wiltshire police force has introduced a helpline to offer the public further advice on 0800 092 0410.

Following the death of Dawn Sturgess, the Government's COBRA emergencies committee has been holding another meeting on Monday.