Police officer treated for possible exposure to Novichok

An investigator wearing protective clothing works behind screens erected in Rollestone Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire, where counter-terrorism officers are investigating after a couple were left in a critical condition when they were exposed to the nerve agent Novichok.
An investigator wearing protective clothing works behind screens erected in Rollestone Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire, where counter-terrorism officers are investigating after a couple were left in a critical condition when they were exposed to the nerve agent Novichok.
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A police officer is in hospital amid concerns of possible exposure to Novichok.

The officer, believed to be with Wiltshire Police, is being treated at Salisbury District Hospital, a short distance from Amesbury where Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, fell ill last Saturday.

They remain in a critical condition in hospital after exposure to Novichok by handling a contaminated item.

It is believed the officer initially attended Great Western Hospital in Swindon before being transferred to Salisbury.

The force is dealing with the second major investigation involving the nerve agent this year, after the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March.

A Salisbury District Hospital spokesperson said: “A police officer attended Great Western Hospital this evening for medical advice in connection with the ongoing incident in Amesbury. There is nothing to suggest there is any wider risk to anyone at the hospital.

“The individual is now being taken to Salisbury District Hospital which has the ability to carry out the appropriate specialist tests.

“Salisbury District Hospital has seen a number of members of the public who have come to the hospital with health concerns since this incident started and none have required any treatment.

“We would like to reiterate the advice from Public Health England that the risk to the wider public remains low.”

Forensic investigators are continuing to comb for clues in Wiltshire after the latest Novichok poisonings.

Investigators wearing camouflage protective clothing entered the John Baker House assisted-living accommodation in Salisbury, where mother-of-three Ms Sturgess lives, after they took a sample from the outside of the building on Friday.

Other sites visited by the couple in the lead-up to their hospitalisation are also being looked at, as detectives piece together a timeline of their movements.

Officers have spoken to several key witnesses and are trawling through more than 1,300 hours of CCTV footage which has been collected so far.

Those in camouflage at John Baker House were followed in by two others, one of whom was taking pictures, as they began combing for the deadly substance.

They took a swab from the exterior of the building on Rollestone Street, which is now under a heavy cordon and lined by forensic tents.

There was also a heavy operational presence at Mr Rowley’s flat, where they were both taken ill.

Incident response vehicles and fire engines joined police at his Amesbury home.

Police have been unable to locate the source of the contamination and have not ruled out the possibility of more people falling ill from coming into contact with the substance left over after the Skripals were targeted.

One theory understood to be under investigation is whether the pair inadvertently found the container used to transport the nerve agent in the Skripal attack.

Mr Rowley has been described as having foraged for goods to fix and sell, and is known to have collected discarded cigarettes.

Public Health England has repeated “highly precautionary advice” for people who had visited five locations identified by police, but insisted there is no immediate health risk.

PHE advised washing clothes worn with regular detergent at a normal temperature; wiping items such as phones and handbags with cleansing or baby wipes; and double-bagging items that are dry-clean only with further instructions to follow.

The locations identified by police are: Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury; a property at John Baker House, Rolleston Street, Salisbury; a property on Muggleton Road, Amesbury; Boots the chemist, Stonehenge Walk, Amesbury, and the Baptist church on Raleigh Crescent, Amesbury.

The Metropolitan Police said: “Due to the unique challenges involved with this operation, police activity is expected to take weeks and months to complete.

“The focus of the investigation remains identifying the source of the contamination as quickly as possible.”

The second nerve agent emergency in four months prompted a diplomatic row, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid accusing the Russian state of using Britain as a “dumping ground for poison”.

The Russian Embassy hit back, accusing the Government of trying to “muddy the waters” and “frighten its own citizens”.

The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down confirmed on Wednesday that the victims had been exposed to Novichok.

Novichok remains highly toxic for a considerable period of time, so even the tiniest trace remaining in a container picked up by the victims could account for their severe illness.