Tuesday, December 7

Dawn Sturgess death in Novichok will be examined by public inquiry | Novichok poisonings


A public inquiry will be launched into the death of a woman killed in the Wiltshire novichok poisonings in 2018, the Home Secretary announced.

The investigation into the death of Dawn Sturgess will be able to consider sensitive information in secret and allow the judge who directs it to examine the role played by the Russian state.

In June 2018, Sturgess, 44, and his partner, Charlie Rowley, were poisoned after he found a bottle of fake perfume containing novichok. Rowley recovered but Sturgess died.

The Sturgess family had lobbied for their investigation, which is being overseen by life partner Heather Hallett, to become a public investigation, believing that this would be the best way to get to the truth of what happened.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said Thursday: “The government is launching an investigation after carefully considering Lady Hallett’s advice that this is necessary to allow all relevant evidence to be heard. This is an important step in ensuring that the Dawn Sturgess family gets the answers they need. The current investigation will be deferred after the establishment of the investigation.

“Investigations of the investigation will be a matter for the president. As the sponsoring department, the Home Office will provide support and ensure that the investigation has the resources it needs. “

Dawn’s father, Stan Sturgess, said he was pleased with the development. He said: “We welcome the decision, our legal team has worked tirelessly on our behalf and we hope that in the near future we will finally have a closure.”

The family had been concerned about a suggestion from Home Office lawyers that the full hearing on the poisonings might not be heard until 2023. Sturgess said he was pleased with the prospect of it happening next year.

Patel said she was willing to keep the Sturgess family at the center of the investigation and wrote to explain her decision.

Rowley also welcomed the measure. He said: “We want to find out as much as we can about how and why Dawn died. I am pleased that there is a public investigation. ”Rowley continues to have health problems after his exposure to the novichok.

Patel said the investigation would be carried out by Hallett only as president. In a letter to Hallett, Patel said: “There are a number of administrative and security details that our teams will need to resolve, but I hope you agree that we should try to establish the investigation as soon as reasonably possible in 2022.

“My officials will do everything possible to support you during the course of the investigation. Like you, I am interested in this research keeping Ms. Sturgess’s family at its heart as they seek to understand how she died. “

Hallett welcomed the announcement, saying: “My team will now work on all the necessary arrangements so that the investigation can be established in early 2022.”

Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was the target of a novichok attack in Salisbury in March 2018. He, his daughter, Yulia, and a police officer, Sergeant Nick Bailey, were poisoned but survived.

It is hoped that an investigation can help explain the gap between the attack on the Skripals and the poisoning of Sturgess.

At a preliminary investigative hearing in September, an attorney for the Sturgess family argued that there was a strong public interest in investigating the circumstances, especially after an assertion by the senior national coordinator for counterterrorism policing, Dean Haydon, that thousands of people could have been killed in the poisonings, which the UK government blames on the Russian state.


www.theguardian.com

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