Britain’s top counter-terrorism officer Sajid Javid on Wednesday confirmed two British citizens are critically ill after they were exposed to the Novichok nerve agent.1
Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, collapsed at a house in Amesbury, Wiltshire, on Saturday and remain critically ill. The highest concentration of Novichok was found on the couple’s hands, possibly indicating the item they handled could be a container or receptacle that was used to carry the nerve agent. 2
This poisoning incident is probably an accidental result of the attack on the Skripals, experts say. Some added that it could be a separate assault, though it was unclear why the couple would have been targeted.3
“I would put it in the 90 percent-plus likelihood that this was in a discarded item,” like a coat with a container of the nerve agent in a pocket, said Richard Guthrie, the coordinating editor of CBW Events, a website on chemical and biological weapons, as reported in the New York Times.
That hypothesis is plausible, but so are others, said Dan Kaszeta, a former chemical and biological weapons adviser to the White House and the Secret Service. “There’s too many variables here,” he said.3
Russia was once believed to possess thousands of tons of weaponized Novichok varieties and their precursors, according to a 2014 report by the U.S.-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, a non-partisan group working to reduce the threat of weapons of mass destruction.1
Police have set up a helpline regarding the incident: 0800 092 0410 or 0207 158 0124.
- A Few Facts About The Nerve Agent Novichok (Reuters)
- Amesbury Poisoning: Couple ‘Handled Contaminated Item’ (BBC)
- Theories Abound in New Novichok Poisoning in U.K. (NY Times)