Novichok victim ‘a gentle soul’, says family

The family of a woman who died after being exposed to a nerve agent have described her as “a gentle soul who was generous to a fault”.

Dawn Sturgess, 44, died on Sunday after being exposed to Novichok.

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Her partner Charlie Rowley, 45, remains in a critical condition.

Police are looking at whether the cases are linked to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal – the former Russian spy and his daughter who were poisoned with the same substance in Salisbury.

The UK government has blamed Russia for the incident, but the country’s authorities deny any involvement.

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies said people in the Amesbury and Salisbury area should not “pick up any foreign object which could contain liquid or gel, in the interests of their own safety”.

Ms Sturgess lived in Salisbury, and the couple had been in the city before going to Mr Rowley’s flat in nearby Amesbury on Friday 29 June.

They both then fell ill on Saturday 30 June, and Ms Sturgess died eight days later.

Her family said her death had been “devastating” for them.

In a statement, they added: “She would do anything for anybody and those who knew Dawn would know that she would gladly give her last penny to somebody in need.

“She had the biggest of hearts and she will be dreadfully missed by both her immediate and wider family.”

The family also thanked all the staff at Salisbury District Hospital who treated her, and sent their “thoughts and prayers” to Mr Rowley and his family.

Police seized a car in Swindon on Monday as part of their ongoing investigation into the poisoning.

The BBC understands the white Audi belonged to a paramedic who had been with Ms Sturgess in an ambulance when she fell ill.

Local residents said the paramedic had told them he got bodily fluids on him, but he had been checked over by doctors and given the “all-clear”.

His car was sealed and taken away on the back of a truck.

Residents also claimed he had told them both his car and his clothes were being taken to the government laboratory at Porton Down to be destroyed.

Wiltshire Police said the public “should not be alarmed by this,” adding: “Those involved have the training and expertise to safely remove the vehicle.”

Police are continuing to hunt for a contaminated container which they believe was handled by the pair.

The BBC understands Mr Rowley’s flat is regarded as the key location in the search.

A team wearing protective clothing is combing the small flat, working in 30-minute shifts because of the heat.

Public Health England also offered advice for people who may have visited one of five areas identified by police.

Those locations are Muggleton Road, Boots pharmacy and the Baptist church in Amesbury, and John Baker House and Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury.

Anyone who was there between 22:00 BST on 29 June and 18:30 on 30 June should continue to follow advice, including washing their clothes in a washing machine, keeping other items double-bagged and securely fastened if they are dry-clean only.

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