British duo critically ill after exposure to mystery toxin

AMESBURY (Britain) • British counter-terrorism officers joined a police investigation yesterday after two people were found in critical condition after suspected exposure to an unknown substance near the English city where a former Russian spy was poisoned.

Britain's The Sun newspaper reported that the man and woman had been poisoned and were showing similar symptoms to those displayed by former double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who were victims of a nerve agent attack in March.

The Sun said samples of the toxin involved had been sent to the nearby military research centre of Porton Down for testing.

The pair, both in their 40s, were admitted to hospital in critical condition after they were found unconscious last Saturday in Amesbury, 11km north of Salisbury, where the Skripals were found slumped unconscious on a bench on March 4.

Britain has blamed the Skripals' poisoning on Russia - something Moscow has denied but which has resulted in a serious diplomatic crisis between Russia and Western states.

"They (the couple) are both currently receiving treatment for suspected exposure to an unknown substance," Wiltshire county police, which took the rare step of declaring "a major incident", said.

"Based on the number of casualties affected, it is not believed that there is a significant health risk to the wider public."

There was no word on the identity of the couple.

A police spokesman declined to confirm whether the couple were believed to have been poisoned or whether scientists from the Porton Down science park were now involved.

But London police confirmed that specialist counter-terrorism officers were helping the inquiry.

Prime Minister Theresa May's spokesman said the government's emergency response committee had met to discuss the incident and that Mrs May and ministers were being regularly updated on the developments.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 05, 2018, with the headline 'British duo critically ill after exposure to mystery toxin'. Print Edition | Subscribe