U.K. to Investigate Possible Russian Involvement in Death of Woman Poisoned By Nerve Agent

The U.K. government on Thursday authorized an investigation into possible Russian involvement in the death of a British woman who was poisoned in 2018 by a Soviet-developed nerve agent, the Associated Press reported.

Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner, Charlie Rowley, came into contact with a discarded perfume bottle containing Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent. Sturgess died from the poison in July of 2018 but Rowley survived.

The two were exposed to the poison three months after Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter were ill from a Novichok attack in a nearby city. Police have not been able to discover where the poison was between the Skripal attack and when Rowley said he found it three months later. Rowley also said he found the perfume bottle in a trash bin eight miles from the Skripal attack.

Two suspects appeared on Russian television claiming they were simply tourists visiting England. Russia denies all allegations and President Vladimir Putin has claimed the suspects were civilians.

No charges have been issued by police in the poisoning of Sturgess and Rowley.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

President Vladimir Putin
The U.K. government on Thursday authorized an investigation into possible Russian involvement in the death of a British woman who was poisoned in 2018 by a Soviet-developed nerve agent. Russia denies all allegations. Above, Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting of the Supreme State Council of the Union State of Russia and Belarus on Unity Day, via teleconference call, in Sevastopol, Crimea, on November 4, 2021. Mikhail Metzel / SPUTNIK/Getty Images

Heather Hallett, the coroner who held an inquest into Sturgess' death, said in September that a public inquiry was needed to conduct a full and fair investigation into how the woman died. Unlike inquests, which are routinely held in cases when the cause of death is unknown or if someone died violently, public inquiries are allowed to consider sensitive intelligence material.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the inquiry Hallet requested would be established "as soon as is reasonably possible in 2022."

"I hope this inquiry will bring comfort to [Ms. Sturgess' family and others affected] through a greater understanding of the circumstances of Ms. Sturgess' death and recognize the bravery and resilience of those who responded," Patel said in a letter to the coroner.

British police have named and charged three Russian men said to be working for Russia's military intelligence service, GRU, alleging they traveled to England for a mission targeting the Skripals before flying back to Moscow. The men were believed to have smeared Novichok on the door handle of Sergei Skripal's home.

Britain has no extradition agreement with Russia, and the three cannot be brought to Britain to face trial as long as they remain in Russia.