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After British Woman Exposed To Nerve Agent Dies, U.K. Wants Answers


A British woman exposed to a nerve agent just over a week ago has died in the hospital. Authorities say she was poisoned by the same military-grade nerve agent that came close to killing a former Russian spy and his daughter back in March. As NPR's Scott Neuman reports, U.K. officials are demanding answers.

SCOTT NEUMAN, BYLINE: London's Scotland Yard says it is treating the death of 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess as a homicide. She was admitted on June 30 with her partner Charlie Rowley, who is 45. Rowley remains in critical condition. Novichok is a nerve agent developed in Russia that poisoned former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in the same community in southern England. Last week, samples taken from Burgess (ph) and Rowley confirmed they, too, were exposed to Novichok. London Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu.


NEIL BASU: Following the detailed analysis of those samples, we can confirm that the man and woman have been exposed to the nerve agent Novichok, which has been identified as the same nerve agent that contaminated both Yulia and Sergei Skripal.

NEUMAN: Medical officials say the Skripals were lucky to survive the attack. The working theory is that they touched something contaminated with Novichok left over from the attack on the Skripals. Prime Minister Theresa May says she is appalled and shocked by Sturgess' death. Here she is speaking last week.


PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: To see two more people exposed to the Novichok in the U.K. is obviously deeply disturbing. And the police, I know, will be leaving no stone unturned in their investigation.

NEUMAN: Russia has strongly denied any role in the attack on the Skripals. And on Monday, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin was sorry to hear that Burgess had died but reiterated that it is absurd to suggest Moscow's involvement. Russian media have suggested that the poisonings are a plot by London to discredit the Kremlin in the eyes of the international community. Following the poisonings of the Skripals, the U.S., U.K. and European allies expelled dozens of Russian diplomats. Speaking before Parliament last week, British Home Secretary Sajid Javid accused the Russians of a disinformation campaign and said London would not stand for more attacks on its soil.


SAJID JAVID: 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.

NEUMAN: Despite those harsh words, Javid said there are no current plans for further sanctions to punish Russia. Scott Neuman, NPR News.


Scott Neuman is a reporter and editor, working mainly on breaking news for NPR's digital and radio platforms.