London – Two people are in critical condition in hospital after coming into contact with the potentially deadly nerve agent Novichok.
Authorities in London said in a late night statement that more than 100 officers from the counter terrorism unit are involved in the incident because the nerve agent is identical to one used on former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia which resulted in an accusation it was a Russian-orchestrated plot.
“This evening we have received test results from Porton Down that show the two people have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok,” said Neil Basu, who heads the counter terrorism unit.
“At approximately 10:15hrs on Saturday, 30 June, the South West Ambulance Service was called to a residential address in Amesbury, where a 44-year-old woman had collapsed. She was subsequently taken to hospital.
“At around 15:30hrs that day, the ambulance service was called back to the same address, where a 45-year-old man had also fallen ill. The man was taken to hospital and Wiltshire Police were informed,” he said.
From initial assessment it was thought that the two patients had fallen ill after using drugs from a potentially contaminated batch, Basu said.
“However, on Monday, 2 July, due to concerns over the symptoms the man and woman were displaying, samples from both patients were sent to Porton Down laboratory for analysis.
“Following the detailed analysis of these samples, we can confirm that the man and woman have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok, which has been identified as the same nerve agent that contaminated both Yulia and Sergei Skripal,” he added.
“The latest update we have from the hospital is that both patients remain in a critical condition. Both are British nationals and are local to the area. Officers are still working to identify their next of kin.”
No one else has been affected at this point.
“The priority for the investigation team now, is to establish how these two people have come into contact with this nerve agent,” Basu added.
Around 100 detectives from the Counter Terrorism Policing Network are now working on this investigation, alongside colleagues from Wiltshire Police.
“We have cordoned off a number of sites in the Amesbury and Salisbury areas that we believe the two individuals visited in the period before they fell ill.
“This is a precautionary measure while we continue to investigate how they came into contact with the substance.”
“I do want to reassure the public, however, that there is no evidence that either the man or woman recently visited any of the sites that were decontaminated following the attempted murders of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.”
Looking ahead over the coming days, people in the area can expect to see an increased police presence, which will include officers wearing protective equipment as they carry out activity at a number of sites. This will look similar to some of the activity that took place in Salisbury earlier this year.
He said investigation continues into the “barbaric” attack on the Skripals who survived the attack. UK’s relations with Russia soured after that attack with the highest levels of government accusing Russia.