Public inquiry to be held into death of novichok victim Dawn Sturgess

A public inquiry will be held into the death of novichok victim Dawn Sturgess, who was poisoned in Amesbury in 2018, the home secretary has said.

The 44-year-old passed away at Salisbury District Hospital on 8 July, after being exposed to the nerve agent via a discarded counterfeit perfume bottle.

It was found by her partner Charlie Rowley, who became seriously ill but survived. Police believe it had been used by Russian intelligence operatives to smuggle the nerve agent into the country.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said she hoped to establish the inquiry, which will likely be held in both Salisbury Guildhall and at venues in London, “as soon as is reasonably possible in 2022”.

Baroness Heather Hallett, who will chair the inquiry, said: “I am anxious to ensure that the inquiry can commence its substantive work and deliver answers to the questions the bereaved family and partner of Dawn Sturgess have about her death as soon as possible.”

The inquiry will examine any possible Russian involvement, amid allegations Ms Sturgess died as an indirect result of Kremlin-sponsored poisoning.

In her letter to the coroner Baroness Heather Hallett, Ms Patel said: “I hope this inquiry will bring comfort to (Ms Sturgess’s family and others affected) through a greater understanding of the circumstances of Ms Sturgess’ death and recognise the bravery and resilience of those who responded.”

Her death followed the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia, and ex-police officer Nick Bailey, who were poisoned in nearby Salisbury in March that year.

Members of a Russian military intelligence squad are believed to have smeared the deadly nerve agent on Mr Skripal’s door handle in Salisbury. All three survived.

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