Police have launched a murder inquiry after a woman exposed to nerve agent Novichok in Wiltshire died.
Dawn Sturgess, 44, died in hospital on Sunday evening after falling ill on 30 June.
Charlie Rowley, 45, who was also exposed to the nerve agent in Amesbury, remains critically ill in hospital.
Theresa May said she was “appalled and shocked” by the death, which comes after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury.
Which comes four months after the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter. So, what are the likely scenarios here:
1. Putin ordered the Skripals murdered by Novichok, and four months later put the hit on a couple of nobodies in the same area. If someone – anyone – wants to come up with a plausible theory as to why he’d do this, I’m all ears.
2. Putin ordered the Skripals murdered by Novichok, and somehow two nobodies ran into the same stuff by accident four months later. As Jason Lynch (who, incidentally, should be leading the investigation) points out in the comments, this is not implausible and consistent with a nerve agent being trampled around the place. However, unless a clear link between the two cases can be established, e.g. a common location between each victim, it’s going to be hard to convince people – especially Russians – that this is the same case. So far, it’s not looking good:
In a statement, the Met Police said the possibility the poisoning of the Skripals and Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley are linked is a “clear line of inquiry”.
A spokesman said the investigators are “not in a position to say whether the nerve agent was from the same batch that the Skirpals were exposed to”.
He also said: “There is no evidence that (Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley) visited any of the sites that were decontaminated following the attempted murders of Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March.”
3. The two cases are separate attacks, and nothing to do with Putin.
Combined with my skepticism over the initial attack, I’m going with No. 3. I don’t know what the actual cause is – someone gone rogue at Porton Down? – but hopefully now a murder enquiry has been launched, we’ll find out:
Mr Basu said the death “has only served to strengthen our resolve to identify and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for what I can only describe as an outrageous, reckless and barbaric act”.
He said: “Detectives will continue with their painstaking and meticulous work to gather all the available evidence so that we can understand how two citizens came to be exposed with such a deadly substance that tragically cost Dawn her life.”
Now I hope this is true. But I don’t have much confidence that, should the evidence start pointing in a direction which might cause Theresa May and her government considerable embarrassment, it won’t be buried without trace. I suspect the outcome of the investigation will be an inconclusive fudge with just enough wriggle-room to keep blaming Russia.