UK police officer tests negative for nerve toxin exposure in latest Novichok drama

Police said the officer sought medical advice as a ‘precautionary measure’, while the hospital stressed that the risk to the public is low

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 July, 2018, 5:28am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 July, 2018, 9:21am

A UK police officer who was tested for possible exposure to the nerve agent Novichok in connection with the poisoning of a couple in southwest England on Saturday has been given the all clear, the local force said.

“Pleased to confirm that the police officer who sought precautionary medical advice at Salisbury District Hospital in connection with the incident in Amesbury has been assessed & given the all-clear,” Wiltshire Police said on Twitter.

UK couple was poisoned with Novichok nerve agent, police say

The officer sought “medical advice in connection with the ongoing incident in Amesbury”, and was transferred to a hospital in the nearby town of Salisbury for “specialist tests”, a spokesperson for Salisbury District Hospital said.

Wiltshire Police force said its officer had sought medical advice as “a precautionary measure”.

The announcement came after two residents of Amesbury, Charlie Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, fell ill due to the Soviet-developed nerve agent last Saturday.

Rowley and Sturgess, who remain in critical condition after being found unconscious, were the fourth and fifth people to be poisoned with Novichok in the UK. Police said they had handled an undisclosed item “contaminated” with the nerve agent.

Poisoned Brits held ‘contaminated item’; UK demands answers from Russia

The first two victims were ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were attacked with Novichok on March 4 at the elder Skripal’s home in Salisbury.

Another police officer, Nick Bailey, was also affected by the poison. He and the Skripals were all eventually released from hospital.

The British government accused Russia of trying to kill the Skripals, a charge Moscow angrily denied, sparking an international crisis.

Ministers said this week that a link between the two cases is a main line of inquiry, and has asked Moscow to help provide answers about what has happened.

Who poisoned Russian spy in UK? Chemical arms watchdog will decide

There is speculation that the British couple may have picked up a container used in the original incident, and several sites in both Amesbury and Salisbury have been cordoned off by emergency services.

Earlier, Salisbury hospital cautioned against alarm over the police officer’s admission, saying it had 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”.

In a statement, Salisbury District Hospital said that “there is nothing to suggest there is any wider risk to anyone” at Great Western Hospital, where the latest officer had initially been admitted before being moved to Salisbury.

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

Novichok is a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the cold War.

Around 100 counter-terrorism officers are helping in the investigation into the latest poisoning, which police said Friday could “take weeks and months to complete”.

So far, there is no evidence that the British couple visited any of the sites involved in the Skripal case.