Public inquiry will start next week into death of Novichok victim Dawn Sturgess
The public inquiry into how a British woman was fatally poisoned after being exposed to Novichok will start next week, the Government has announced.
Dawn Sturgess died in July 2018 after she unwittingly came into contact with the nerve agent on a discarded perfume bottle in Amesbury, Wiltshire.
The UK Government and Scotland Yard believe the Kremlin was responsible for the act, prompting Home Secretary Priti Patel three months ago to order that the inquest into Ms Sturgess’s death be converted into a public inquiry to better establish the extent of Russian involvement.
It will be chaired by former Supreme Court judge Lord Hughes of Ombersley, it was announced on Thursday.
Ms Patel said in a written ministerial statement: “The current inquest will be suspended after the establishment of the inquiry. The inquiry will formally start on March 17.”
She added: “This is an important step in ensuring that the family of Dawn Sturgess get the answers they need.”
Although the inquiry will formally begin next week, it is not yet known when and where the first hearing will take place.
Ms Sturgess’ family have had to wait nearly four years for answers as to how she died.
During a hearing last month, at what was intended to be the inquiry’s first sitting, coroner Baroness Heather Hallett said it was “a disappointment” that no judge had been appointed to lead the inquiry.
Ms Sturgess died in hospital after she and Mr Rowley became seriously ill at his home.
It followed the attempted murder of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal, his daughter Yulia and ex-police officer Nick Bailey, who were poisoned in nearby Salisbury in March that year when members of a Russian military intelligence squad are believed to have smeared the deadly nerve agent on Mr Skripal’s door handle.
All three survived, as did Mr Rowley.
The Metropolitan Police have identified three suspects wanted in connection with the poisonings: Denis Sergeev, Alexander Mishkin and Anatoliy Chepiga, who used the aliases Sergey Fedotov, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov respectively while in the UK.
The force appealed to the public for information on how the bottle came to be found eight miles from Salisbury, and where it was stored between the departure of the would-be assassins from the UK in March and its discovery three months later.
The inquiry hearings are expected to be held in Salisbury and London.
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