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

Home secretary Priti Patel announced there will be an inquiry into the novichok death

Thomas Kingsley
Thursday 18 November 2021 17:01
<p>Dawn Sturgess was poisoned by novichok in Amesbury, Wiltshire, in 2018</p>

Dawn Sturgess was poisoned by novichok in Amesbury, Wiltshire, in 2018

A public inquiry will be held following the death of Dawn Sturgess, who was poisoned by novichok in 2018, home secretary Priti Patel has confirmed.

The home secretary said she hoped to establish the inquiry “as soon as is reasonably possible in 2022”.

Former High Court judge, 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.”

In her letter to 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’s death and recognise the bravery and resilience of those who responded.”

Priti Patel announced that the inquiry will happen in 2022 when ‘reasonably possible’

The inquiry is likely to be held in both Salisbury Guildhall and at venues in London.

Sturgess died in hospital on 8 July after she and her partner, Charlie Rowley, became seriously ill in Amesbury, Wiltshire, when they came into contact with novichok, a military-grade nerve agent, from a discarded perfume bottle.

The couple were exposed three months after the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were poisoned in nearby Salisbury in March of that year. British police believe members of Russian’s military intelligence service smeared the deadly nerve agent on Mr Skripal’s door handle.

The home secretary was previously accused of delaying the process at a hearing in September, after refusing to indicate if she would be willing to convert an existing inquest into a public inquiry.

Baroness Hallett called for the government to urgently establish a public inquiry into the death of Sturgess.

She said inquest proceedings were not able to properly consider “highly relevant” material relating to national security.

“I cannot conduct a full, fair and effective investigation into the death of Ms Sturgess if these proceedings continue as an inquest,” she told the court.

The police identified three suspects wanted in connection with the poisonings: Denis Sergeev, Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga, who used the aliases Sergey Fedotov, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov respectively while in the UK.

Russia denies the allegations, and President Vladimir Putin has claimed the suspects were civilians. Two of the suspects appeared on Russian television claiming they were simply tourists visiting Salisbury Cathedral when they were in England.

Ms Patel previously condemned the “appalling” attack, and told the House of Commons that the UK would “take every possible step to detain and extradite them to face justice” should the suspects ever leave Russia.

Additional reporting from agencies

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