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An investigator in a chemical suit removes items as they work behind screens erected in Rollestone Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire. Yui Mok/AP

'Painstaking and vital work' - Police investigating link between Novichok death and Skripal poisoning

They say that 400 items in total have been collected.

POLICE IN ENGLAND say they are continuing to investigate whether the death of a woman last week due to exposure to a nerve agent is linked to the poisoning of an ex-Russian spy and his daughter.

Dawn Sturgess died last Sunday after collapsing in the home she shared with her partner, Charlie Rowley, on Saturday 30 June.

45-year-old Rowley himself was taken to hospital in a critical condition. He has since regained consciousness and is described as being in a “serious but stable” condition.

The Met Police says that it is continuing to investigate whether the death is linked to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.

Sturgess and Rowley’s home in Amesbury is seven miles northeast of Salisbury, where former Russian agent Skripal and his daughter were struck down by the nerve agent Novichok on a public street in March of this year.

Police say they have linked the nerve agent to a small bottle in Sturgess’ house.

They say that 400 items in total have been collected.

Searches are still expected to continue for several weeks, if not months as officers look to identify any other potential sites or sources of contamination, as well as gather further evidence to assist with their investigation.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, National Lead for Counter Terrorism (CT) Policing in the UK said: “It is not an exaggeration to say that the search process linked with both this and the Salisbury investigation has been one of the most complex and difficult that UK policing has ever faced.

“The work being carried out is extremely important. Not only are we trying to solve an extremely serious crime that has been committed, but we’re also working to identify any potential outstanding risks to the public; all whilst ensuring that all those involved in the search process are not themselves exposed to any risk of contamination.

“It is painstaking and vital work, which unfortunately takes a very long time to complete, but I am sure that the public understands why it is absolutely necessary.”

Police say that work is ongoing to establish whether the nerve agent is from the same batch as used in the attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March, and this remains a main line of enquiry for the investigation team.

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