Woman Accidentally Used Military-Grade Chemical Weapon Instead Of Perfume

A British woman passed away after she used an object contaminated with a nerve agent from Russia. The Soviet-era agent is believed to be the same substance used to poison a former Russian spy and his daughter who lived in a nearby town in England. Investigators are trying to determine if the substances came from the same batch.

Dawn Sturgess, a 44-year-old Amesbury resident, and her partner, Charlie Rowlie, were both hospitalized after collapsing in their home last week. The couple had been suffering from unusual symptoms. The symptoms were traced back to a substance found in their home that Sturgess thought was perfume. It turned out to be military-grade nerve agent.

Sturgess passed away from the exposure. Rowlie remains in the hospital.

The same type of nerve agent was used to poison a former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, to just weeks ago. Yulia, a Russian citizen, was visiting her father in Salisbury in March when the two were taken ill and rushed to the hospital. They were both in critical condition for several weeks, but ultimately survived the chemical attack and were released.

The poisoning of Sturgess and Rowlie came just days after an investigation was launched into the incident on the Skripals. Sturgess and Rowlie were rushed to the same hospital where the Skripals were treated.

Novichok, the agent in question, was developed by the Soviet Union between 1971 and 1993. The agent is touted as the deadliest nerve chemical ever created, and were adapted for military use. Four laboratories has thus far confirmed that it was the substance used to poison Skripal and his daughter.

Experts on chemical warfare have been ordered to work with Metropolitan Police in Britain to investigate the scene and search for any other traces of the nerve agent. In addition to the home of the victims, the local pub and restaurant they visited before falling ill have been investigated. Investigators have recovered a vehicle that has been connected to the poisoning and removed it.

"Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country. Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others," said Prime Minister Theresa May in a statement.

The poisoning was declared a major incident, and Britain has launched an investigation. The incident has been the cause of some diplomatic unrest with Russia. The U.K. expelled some 23 Russian diplomats. Russian diplomats are also being expelled from some 20 other countries, including the U.S.

Russia is protesting the expulsions, claiming that the country was not behind the use of the nerve gas. Russia has accused Britain of being behind the attack.

Thus far, authorities do not believe Sturgess or Rowlie were targeted, as neither British national has a background in the military or ties to Russia. It is unclear yet as to how the couple came by the nerve agent. Rowlie’s brother Matthew said that Charlie had purchased what he thought was a perfume bottle.

Police have identified several possible suspects in the poisoning by checking surveillance footage and records.
Source: CNN
Photos: Wikimedia Commons/ Chris Talbot, Flickr/ eivindtjohei, U.S. Army

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