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UK to hold public inquiry into Novichok poisoning death of Dawn Sturgess
British woman Dawn Sturgess died after a contact with Soviet-developed military grade nerve agent Novichok in 2018 in London. Three Soviet spies who had come to the UK have been charged but they have already left the country and there is no extradition treaty. The Government has authorized a public inquiry to examine any possible Russian involvement in the death.

LONDON, Nov 18: UK's Home Secretary Priti Patel has declared that a public inquiry will be held into the death of British woman Dawn Sturgess, who died after coming into contact with Soviet-developed nerve agent Novichok in 2018.

The Government has authorized a public inquiry to examine any possible Russian involvement in the death.

Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner, Charlie Rowley, had collapsed in Amesbury in in Wiltshire, southwest England, after coming into contact with a discarded fake perfume bottle containing Novichok, a military grade nerve agent. Sturgess died in July 2018, but her partner survived. It has been reported that they came into contact with the bottle accidentally.

The coroner who held the inquest into Sturgess's death, Heather Hallett, had said in September that a public inquiry is needed for a fair investigation. A public inquiry is more comprehensive than investigation. The public inquiry will allow judges to examine more evidence than in an inquest, like Soviet involvement. Patel said the inquiry would be done "as soon as is reasonably possible in 2022." "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 recognize the bravery and resilience of those who responded," Patel said in a letter to the coroner.

Three months before Sturgess's death, Russian ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter had taken ill due to Novichok contact in Salisbury, a nearby town. An ex-police officer Nick Bailey was also targeted but all the three survived. Three Russian men working for Russia's military intelligence service, GRU, were identified and charged for Skripal poisoning. They are Denis Sergeev, Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga. They were in the UK under their aliases: Sergey Fedotov, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov. They said: 'We were just tourists.'

Novichok traces were found in the hotel in London where they stayed before visiting Skripals. After the incident they had flown back to Moscow. They had smeared Novichok on the door handle of Skripal's home with a view to eliminating him. The UK has no extradition treaty with Russia.

How the fake perfume bottle brought from Russia found its way to Amesbury is not confirmed so far.

Recently, Russian Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was poioned with Novichok while he was campaigning in the election in Serbia.

Novichok is a chemical weapon that enters the body through the skin instantly. It is more powerful than sarin and other volatile nerve agents. Novichok binds to acetylcholinesterase. Acetylcholinesterase is an enzyme that breaks down the neurotransmitter acetylcholine. The result is the neurotransmitter builds up, leading to convulsions, paralysis and respiratory arrest.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons has supported the UK's efforts.

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