And now it’s murder

Oh:

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.

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32 thoughts on “And now it’s murder

  1. I’ll stick with my first guess. The poison came from Russia, the poisoners came from Russia. Putin did not order the hit, and it wasn’t carried out by government forces, but by people far less competent.
    I would guess the second incident is a result of incompetence.
    Also I’m less than convinced that the target of the first hit was the exposed spy- he was harmless. But what of Julia? We have no idea of what she was up to, and if she was up to anything that might justify her as a target.

  2. I battle to imagine that someone handling “novichok” could be so incompetent as to leave it lying about for druggies to find without accidentally killing his/herself first. I think Skripal was a hit but farmed out to agents who used the druggies to deliver it. They were probably paid in heroin and may either have hung onto a bit or become demanding later on. Why Skripal? Who wrote the dodgy dossier using KGB capitals? Who knows Christopher Steele? Does CS have friends at Porton Down? Which American crime family tends to lose witnesses just before they are due to testify?
    It’s a long shot but more believable than anything official.

  3. According to one published story, she was near marrying a young man, whose father is senior in the neo-KGB and the mother was extremely opposed and would stop at nothing to avoid the shame on her husband by the marriage to a traitor’s blood. So went the story.
    No, I don’t believe it, but is as credible as pretty much everything else on this we get told by HMG.

    Alternatively, he was, it is reported, implicated in manufacturing the anti-Trump pee-gate dossier paid for by the Clintons. Housekeeping.

    Or they may have been targeted as generic foreigners, just because their conversation was not in English: if it was a rogue, who knows what pushes his/her buttons?

    Certainly the whole thing reeks of Mr Bean rather than X-men. Meticoulously planned Governement hit…. by the Blues Brothers. Perhaps the most credible statement of them all has (amazingly) been Putin’s: “If it were us, he would be dead”. There are plenty of other mysteriously dead russians around London/SE just recently to prove his point.

    A key fact, if we ever get told, will be if this was the same batch, hence plausible collateral damage, or if this was Batch 2, process improved.

  4. It’s pretty crap deadly nerve agent if, out of five people that were poisoned by it, only one has died …

    I think that being druggies, it could be a poorly processed batch of amphetamine which the component chemicals of the stuff are reportedly lethal.

    As for the Russians, I agree – if Putin had ordered them dead, they would be dead, no ifs or buts.

  5. Ljh is pretty plausible.

    (1) is also still plausible. Putin is a schoolyard bully. Any leader who can shoot down an airliner and gaslight the thing, in a way that would embarass the professional scruples of a criminal defence lawyer claiming his client only did it because he had toilet training difficulties in infancy, is capable of anything. Including doing something totally random to ofuscate the previous issue during the world cup he is hosting.

    He just loves pushing around and bullying small insignificant countries that can’t push back. No grand geopolitical reason is needed.

  6. Biggie–Stuff and nonsense.

    A repeat–with even less reason–of the same caper that the worlds’ CM media blamed him for and then shat themselves with outrage about is hardly likely to draw attention away from Putes. Who may be many things but stupid is not one of them.

  7. Putin wants attention drawing away from him? Cockrot! He revels in the attention that results from plausibly deniable actions.

  8. “Any leader who can shoot down an airliner “…
    That would include the US and their Navy then. USS Vincennes. And that was the formal armed forces, not a bunch of thugs being covertly assisted.
    Russia and Putin has no monopoly on this, sadly.

  9. That would include the US and their Navy then

    They admitted, it, though, and apologised (however insincerely) for the mistake, unlike the Russians who are still claiming it was nothing to do with them.

  10. Good story Tim, but I would invoke Occam’s Razor. Most likely scenario is a clumsy Russian murder attempt on the Srikals with cross contamination affecting the druggies. Incompetence usually trumps conspiracy.

  11. Good story Tim, but I would invoke Occam’s Razor.

    If someone is bumbling around in Salisbury with a nerve agent and a second victim has died 4 months after the first, Occam’s razor would say Putin *isn’t* involved.

  12. 🙂 But as they say in IT Security: “Never assume incompetence when you fear malice”.
    I’d agree that a bungle is usually the most plausible cause but this one does stretch credulity.
    I wonder if the police are investigating missing cats and dogs in the area, any hotspots? Or asking pet shops regarding sales of live-food rats for a pet “boa constrictor” – Uncle Fester “This project will keep him quite hungry”
    I’m far from convinced of any of these wild ideas, but one hopes that the authorities at least are covering all angles, and haven’t already worked backwards from a political result.

  13. We were told 4 months ago that the rain would wash away the poison. So much for that theory.
    The goons what dunnit (dead by now) had to eat and piss, and maybe sleep. I’d be leery of touching anything in a budget hotel or motorway service between Salisbury and Heathrow.

  14. Rogue agent from porton down? you’ve been away too long. convince the Russians, why? just like corby believers no amount of truth or reality will make any difference so why try? Discarded products from first hit works for me.

  15. This second attack seriously undermines, if it does not actually disprove, the claim that the Skripals were poisoned by the Russians, or some faction in Russia. That claim never made any sense. Most likely, Britain has a home-grown terrorist(s) on its hands who is attacking random victims. Considering that the attacks are occurring near Britain’s biological and chemical weapons development facility at Porton Down, it is possible the attacker(s) is a disgruntled Porton Down employee.

  16. If you had been accused of the first attack and wanted to disprove it this is exactly what you would love to see happen. Because it spreads doubt, and adds various other possibilities about something we can’t ever be sure about.

    Absolutely what Putin loves. Mayhem.

    That doesn’t mean I know or am even advocating this as the explanation, just goes to show there are now too many possibilities and not enough evidence. Again, exactly what Putin would want. He’s calling the shots and no one can pin anything on him. He’s happy to exploit this and have people accuse him whether or not he or some plausibly distant part of the Russian government, is involved.

  17. If you had been accused of the first attack and wanted to disprove it this is exactly what you would love to see happen.

    Or, if you had been accused of the first attack and was damned sure you didn’t do it, this is what you would love to see happen.

  18. Or, if you had been accused of the first attack and was damned sure you didn’t do it, this is what you would love to see happen.

    So… you reckon that Putin didn’t do the first attack, but did do this one?

  19. So… you reckon that Putin didn’t do the first attack, but did do this one?

    I think he did neither – as I’ve already said. I think he’ll be mighty pleased a second attack has occurred though (I doubt he’s buying the government line that this is a contamination).

  20. I think he did neither – as I’ve already said

    And the great thing is that there is no way for you ever to be proved wrong, as any evidence to the contrary — if it’s even found — could easily have been manufactured as part of a government cover-up.

  21. The problem is with such little conclusive information all the different theories are possible (which everyone here will have different levels of probability for each).

    Blaming Russia is always going to be the default position, regardless of actual blame.
    Russia only have themselves to blame.
    Because they want to sow distrust, deny and cause mistrust, that will always be their weakness that can be used against them.

    This is like the boy who called wolf.
    You can count on Russia to always deny their shenanigans. If anyone other than Russia does use a chemical weapon in the West, you know you can get away with it as they will be blamed for it.
    The denials can then be discounted as Russia denies everything.

    Russia’s previous behaviour means you’ve always got a bad guy to pin things on, so long as your crime appears vaguely Russianesque .

  22. I tend to the view that the two incidents are linked. Whether Putin or henchmen or someone else went after the Skripals I have no idea. However unless TM & others are lying to Parliament, then it was most likely a Novichok. If it has been exposed to air & sunshine & is still active now then it is incredibly nasty stuff and, as others have said, in that case it really doesn’t meet the spec of a nerve agent.

    The other possibility is that the original attackers chucked away spare supplies, still protected in an air/light-proof container, and that somehow the current victims found it & contaminated themselves.

  23. “Considering that the attacks are occurring near Britain’s biological and chemical weapons development facility at Porton Down, it is possible the attacker(s) is a disgruntled Porton Down employee.”

    I said this a while ago, the fact its so close to PD has got to be more than a coincidence. And its not inconceivable that such a person could have known who Skripal was, he was living openly under his own name. He could have been targeted because he was a former Russian spy, just to have maximum effect for the perpetrator. Lets say the PD person got in touch with Skripal and offered some juicy inside info, something old Sergei could monetise. Sets up a meeting (hence why SS was so agitated in the restaurant earlier, he had a deadline to meet). But when they meet he’s got Yulia in tow, which the poisoner didn’t anticipate. He/she requests Yulia goes for a walk, while they talk business. This would account for how some witnesses state they saw a blonde woman on the bench with SS, while Yulia isn’t blonde – it was SS and the PD contact talking (so she must be a blonde woman). PD woman poisons SS, Yulia returns to him off his tree, gets contaminated herself, then we know the rest. We also know a couple were seen on CCTV heading in the Skripals direction at this point, who look suspiciously like Rowley and Sturgess. What if they’re out for a drink in the park, and see something? The PD woman now has potential witnesses, who need to be silenced. Turns out their druggie types so getting them into contact with something nasty isn’t hard, just offer them some good gear. Job done.

    Then when the police get the toxicology done, and it looks like a Russian spy has been poisoned by a nerve agent, everyone jumps to conclusions and starts shouting about the Russians. So even if they’re having second thoughts now, its too late to row back from.

  24. The latest victims weren’t ‘druggies’. Thus far, there has been no evidence supporting that claim. However, a second ‘random’ poisoning does help to deflect attention from any Russian direct involvement in the Skripal cases.

  25. “The latest victims weren’t ‘druggies’. Thus far, there has been no evidence supporting that claim. ”

    A conviction for possession of heroin would suggest otherwise.

  26. Gangster regiime does what gangster regimes do all the time: conducts a hit on an enemy in a third country, and one of our citizens dies as collateral damage.
    It really doesn’t look any more complicated than that, unless you have some unfathomable need to believe otherwise.

  27. It really doesn’t look any more complicated than that, unless you have some unfathomable need to believe otherwise.

    Yours is a lot more complicated than my theory, fella.

  28. Julia, reckless use of a deadly weapon deplpyed with intent to kill and without regard to who gets hit? I think that would be murder in the same way as a drive by gangland shooting of an innocent passer by.

  29. “Poisoned by sunglasses”
    “At a higher dose than Skripals”
    It’s the DM but truly the police either haven’t a clue or they’re taking the piss or both.

  30. Yours is a lot more complicated than my theory, fella.

    Huh? Putin behaving like Putin is the more complicated explanation?

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