Wiltshire couple poisoned with same strain of Novichok as Skripals – UK interior minister

Wiltshire couple poisoned with same strain of Novichok as Skripals – UK interior minister
The British couple, hospitalized with poisoning earlier this week, were affected by the same strand of ‘Novichok’ nerve agent that was used against Sergei Skripal and his daughter in March, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid said.

“This has been identified as the same nerve agent that contaminated both Yulia and Sergei Skripal,” he told parliament on Thursday.

UK law enforcement agencies have no information on the poisoned couple, who were in the same area of Salisbury as the Skripals prior to the incident, the home secretary said. It is likely that the new victims came into contact with the toxin at a different location, he added.

However, he said that it has not yet been possible to determine if the substance, which the UK authorities call ‘Novichok,’ came from the same batch that was used in the March attack on the former Russian-British double agent.

“We don't want to jump to conclusions but if it is established that the Russian state is entirely responsible for this as well, then of course we will be considering what further action we can take,” Javid said.

The UK has blamed Russia for the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, introducing sanctions against the country in response. Four months since the incident, however, London still hasn’t provided credible proof of Moscow’s alleged involvement in the attack on the former double agent.

On Wednesday, Wiltshire Police declared a “major incident” in the town of Amesbury, which is around 12km from Salisbury. A British man and woman in their 40s had been hospitalized following “suspected exposure to an unknown substance.”

READ MORE: Who’s ‘dumb’? Reuters got lost in Russian embassy tweet on new Novichok claims

Medics evacuated Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, who reportedly had problems with alcohol and drugs, from a property in Muggleton Road on Saturday; but the incident remained unreported for a few days. They currently remain in critical condition in a hospital in Salisbury.

The claims of a new poisoning with Novichok nerve agent go against what the British authorities were telling the public after the attack on Skripal and his daughter, author and journalist, John Wight, told RT.

The main “scandal” with whole Skripal affair was not the alleged Russian involvement, but how the British investigation was carried out. It was “typified by shifting narratives, contradictory information, and the kind of inconsistencies which seem to suggest that the narrative has been lifted straight from the pages of the Pink Panther movie script starring Peter Sellers as inspector Clouseau,” he said.

London first proclaimed that Novichok was “the most lethal nerve agent known to man,” but when the Skripal’s began “miraculously” recovering changed its stance, saying that the effects of the toxin “were treated in time with an antidote” and that its potency was diminished due to exposure to rain, Wight recounted.

“Now, we’re being told that the same ‘Novichok’… was used to poison this unfortunate couple, who lived 12 kilometers away from where the Skripals were living in Salisbury. The contradictions are quite preposterous and it’s clear that no one in their right mind would take what we’ve been told so far in any other way than as a catastrophic failure of the [British] authorities,” he said.

On Thursday, police said that the couple had been poisoned with 'Novichok' after coming into contact with an item contaminated with the nerve agent. "Following further tests of samples from the patients, we now know that they were exposed to the nerve agent after handling a contaminated item."  

The source of the contamination remains unknown.

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