July 6 (UPI) — British police said Friday they can’t say yet whether more people could be poisoned by a Russian nerve agent that’s seriously sickened four people this year.
Britons Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess are hospitalized in critical condition after they were found unconscious at a house in Amesbury, Wiltshire, last weekend.
Thursday, authorities said they’d been sickened by the same Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent that afflicted former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his adult daughter in March. Rowley and Sturgess live about 10 miles from the place the Skripals were poisoned.
Police do not believe Rowley and Sturgess were the victims of a targeted attack, but rather came into contact with remnants of the poison somewhere in Amesbury or Salisbury.
Officials said the highest concentration of Novichok was found on the couple’s hands, leading them to suspect they encountered the poison from handling some contaminated item. Police said Friday they are looking for that item.
British Home Secretary Sajid Javid said it’s likely Rowley, 45, and Sturgess, 44, encountered Novichok in a location that wasn’t cleaned up after the Skripal poisoning. He accused Russia of using Britain as a “dumping ground for poison.”
Investigators are trying to determine whether more people could still come into contact with the poison.
Thursday, the British government demanded answers from Russia about the new poisonings. Moscow has denied involvement.
The Russian Embassy said British officials are trying to “muddy the waters” and “frighten its own citizens.”
The Skripals were hospitalized for weeks, but were ultimately discharged. Sergei Skripal has been an intelligence agent for both Russia and Britain, leading some to question whether the March attack was an act of retribution.