Inquest into death of Novichok victim Dawn Sturgess ‘will be fearless’

The inquest into the death of Dawn Sturgess (pictured) will be "fearless", a judge has said. Credit: PA

A coroner examining the death of Novichock victim Dawn Sturgess has promised her inquest will be "fair, fearless and thorough".

Ms Sturgess, 44, collapsed at her partner's home in Amesbury in June 2018 after coming into contact with a perfume bottle containing Novichok.

She died in hospital eight days later. Her partner Charlie Rowley recovered after being seriously ill.

At a pre-inquest hearing on Tuesday 30 March at the Royal Courts of Justice, the coroner overseeing proceedings Baroness Hallett said Ms Sturgess' inquest would would "undoubtedly raise issues of public interest", due in part to the unusual circumstances in which she died.

Police outside the house where the couple were left in a critical condition when they were exposed to Novichok. Credit: PA

She said the inquest will examine where the substance used to poison her came from and whether the Kremlin was responsible for the chemical attack.

Baroness Hallett said to investigate Dawn Sturgess' death without investigating how Novichock got to be in Salisbury and "who brought it and who directed them" would be an "incomplete, potentially misleading investigation".

Ms Sturgess' death followed the attempted poisoning of former Russian double agent Sergei Skripa and his daughter Yulia, who were found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury four months earlier.

In her opening remarks at the pre-inquest hearing, Baronness Hallett said: "The circumstances were very unusual, so they (Ms Sturgess' family and friends) have not lost only a loved-one but in circumstances that attracted national and international attention."

She also said she will "address public fears and suspicions relating to the circumstances of her death".

Police previously identified two Russians as suspects, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, and said there was enough evidence to charge them with offences including conspiracy to murder over the attack on the Skripals.

But both men denied any involvement and told Russian state television they were in the city on a sightseeing tour of the cathedral. Russian President Vladimir Putin denied the state's involvement and said the men were not military officers but civilians.

Dawn Sturgess, who died in July 2018 after coming into contact with nerve agent Novichok. Credit: Metropolitan Police

Mr O'Connor said efforts to engage with Petrov and Boshiro in recent years have gone completely unanswered, meaning they should not be considered "interested parties" in the inquest.

The coroner confirmed their interested-party status will be removed due to their lack of co-operation, meaning they will not be able to ask questions during the hearing.

Mr O'Conner also said the investigation should be wide-ranging and that there was "very significant interest in exposing the full facts of these matters."

The decision on whether or not to convert the inquest into a public enquiry will be made at a later date.

The coroner said the inquest itself may be held in Wiltshire to reassure the local community and the family that "we are doing all we can to investigate this matter."

The pre-inquest review continues.

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