Wiltshire couple poisoned by nerve agent

Victims were exposed to a mystery substance near Salisbury

GETTY MAJOR INCIDENT Police at the scene in Salisbury also discovered a mysterious substance

Police officers on the scene outside Harcourt Medical Centre in Salisbury, thought to be connected to a man and woman in Amesbury who are in the hospital after being exposed to what police confirmed was Novichok.

It's 13 kilometres from Salisbury, where Sergei and Yulia Skripal were poisoned on March 4.

The couple, a 45-year-old man and a 44-year-old woman, were discovered unconscious at a house in a quiet, newly-built area in Amesbury, a village near the prehistoric Stonehenge monument.

Police said the two people were exposed to nerve agent Novichok.

Novichok is the same highly toxic nerve agent, and the same substance used in March to poison Skripal and his daughter, Yulia.

Scotland Yard assistant commissioner Neil Basu, a leader of the counter-terrorism task force of 100 agents, said, "We are not in a position to say whether the nerve agent was from the same batch that the Skripals were exposed to".

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Medics evacuated Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess, who reportedly had problems with alcohol and drugs, from a property in Muggleton Road on Saturday; but the incident remained unreported for a few days. They've also said that, unlike the Skripals, the couple was not deliberately targeted with the Soviet-era nerve agent, which acts rapidly to slow the heart and restrict airways.

Public Health England (PHE) said it did not believe there to be a "significant health risk" to the wider public, although its advice was being reviewed. "They are both in a critical condition", the statement added.

Paramedics in hazmat suits stretchered them out of an apartment in Amesbury, about eight miles from Salisbury, on Saturday evening.

Tonight it was confirmed the pair, who have no connections with Russian Federation or security services, had come into contact with the nerve agent.

In Salisbury, local residents said they were "shocked" that their quiet area was again hitting the headlines.

"This will be continually assessed as further information becomes known", the statement said.

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Counter-terrorism officials have launched a major investigation into whether the Amesbury and Salisbury incidents were linked.

Almost two weeks ago, Prince Charles and his wife Camilla visited the town of Salisbury, where the Skripals were poisoned, to show their support for the town's recovery.

As a precaution he said more police would be stationed on the streets.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid is chairing a meeting of the British government's COBRA emergency committee on Thursday morning.

The March incident in Salisbury sparked a diplomatic row between the United Kingdom and Russian Federation after British investigators blamed Moscow for the attack.

Tensions in UK-Russian relations escalated after the British government alleged that Russia was behind the attempted assassination - accusations that Moscow has vigorously denied.

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Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned in March, 2018.

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