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Theresa May insists Salisbury is 'open for business' after second nerve agent incident

Theresa May insists Salisbury is 'open for business' after second nerve agent incident

Emilio Casalicchio

3 min read

Theresa May has insisted Salisbury is “very much open for business” after two people ended up in a critical condition following the second nerve agent incident in the town.

A couple, thought to be 45-year-old Charlie Rowley and 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess, fell ill at a house in Amesbury on Saturday and were taken to hospital.

Police last night confirmed they had been exposed to Novichok - a dangerous chemical weapon - during a trip into Salisbury.

It comes just four months after Russian former double-agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were exposed to the same substance and spent weeks recovering in hospital.

The Government accused the Russian state of the March attack, and the key line of inquiry on the latest incident is whether the pair came into contact with some leftover substance.

Theresa May said her thoughts were “with the victims and with the people of Amesbury and Salisbury”  and condemned the “brazen and reckless attack” earlier in the year.

She said in a statement: “The message from Salisbury is clear. It’s very much open for business. The Government will continue to provide every support to the local community.”

And she added: “I would like to personally thank local businesses and residents for their cooperation. We once again also sincerely thank our brave emergency services for their response.”

During a visit to Berlin, Mrs May said: "To see two more people exposed to the Novichok in the UK is obviously deeply disturbing and the police I know will be leaving no stone unturned in their investigation into what happened.”

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister insisted there had been no failure in the cleanup effort in the wake of the chemical attack in March.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid this afternoon said there were no links between the decontaminated locations involved in the first case and the areas travelled to by the couple in the second.

He chaired a Cobra meeting this morning to hammer out what the Government response should be.

Cabinet ministers Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Gavin Williamson and James Brokenshire were also present.

Mr Javid said the Russian government had not been in touch at all since news of the second incident broke - but he called on Moscow to provide any helpful information that it can.

"The eyes of the world are currently on Russia, not least because of the World Cup," he told MPs in the Commons. "It is now time that the Russian state comes forward and explains exactly what has gone on.

The Home Secretary added: "We do not have a quarrel with the Russian people. Rather, it is the actions of the Russian government that continue to undermine our security and that of the international community.

"We will stand up to the actions that threaten our security and the security of our partners.

"It is completely unacceptable for our people to be either deliberate or accidental targets or for our streets, our parks, our towns, to be dumping grounds for poison."

Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott said: "No government can allow the poisoning of its citizens or residents as they go about their daily lives by state actors or others.

"And as the Home Secretary has said, the use of chemical weapons is both barbaric and inhumane."

In the wake of the March attack, the Russian government denied any involvement and argued it was being unfairly restricted from making contact with the victims.

The Government expelled 23 Russian diplomats from UK soil in response to the attack, to which Moscow responded in kind.

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