Family of Amesbury woman poisoned by Novichok call for key questions to be answered

The relatives of a woman who died after being poisoned by Novichok in Salisbury are in the High Court, calling for key questions to be asked at an inquest. 

The family of Dawn Sturgess claim the senior coroner for Wiltshire, has wrongly decided to limit what issues will be considered. They feel this is the only opportunity to address issues of public concern, such as where the poison came from.

The nerve agent attack claimed the life of Dawn Sturgess Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Dawn Sturgess, who was 44, died in hospital in Salisbury in July 2018 after collapsing at her partner Charlie Rowley's home in Amesbury.

Lawyers representing Dawn's family members have suggested to two judges that the inquest will be the only opportunity to publicly investigate a "matter of almost unparalleled public concern". They say Mr Ridley has made a flawed decision about the scope of an inquest which should be quashed.

Charlie Rowley Credit: ITV News

Home Secretary Priti Patel disagrees and says Mr Ridley was entitled to reach the decisions he reached. She also says Mr Ridley is keeping the scope of the inquest under review. Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Lewis are examining rival arguments at a virtual High Court hearing due to end on Wednesday.

Ms Sturgess's daughter, who is at school, has, technically, challenged decisions Mr Ridley made, about the inquest's scope, in December 2019. Her grandfather, Ms Sturgess's father, is acting as her "litigation friend" and has instructed lawyers on her behalf.

Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess became ill after handling a perfume bottle which contained Novichok at his home in Muggleton Road Credit: ITV Meridian

A barrister representing the youngster told judges on Tuesday that Ms Sturgess was exposed to the same military-grade nerve agent believed to have been used in an attempted assassination of former agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury in March 2018.

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with Novichok in Salisbury in 2018. Credit: PA

Michael Mansfield QC said the question of who was responsible for the use of Novichok was a matter of "almost unparalleled public concern".

But Mr Mansfield said the coroner had decided that he would not consider whether any Russian state agents, other than the suspects - Russian military intelligence agents known as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov - were responsible for Ms Sturgess's death, or issues relating to the source of the Novichok.

Sir James Eadie QC, who is representing the Home Secretary, said the judges should dismiss the application. "The background to Ms Sturgess's death is the attempted murder of Sergei and Yulia Skripal on March 4 2018," he said, in a written case outline.

Sir James argued that the coroner was entitled to reach the decisions he had reached regarding the scope of the inquest.

The hearing is due to end on Wednesday.