A woman who was exposed to the nerve agent Novichok in southern England has died, police announced Sunday.
“Today is the day we hoped would never come,” said Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard. “On behalf of all officers, staff and volunteers working for Wiltshire Police, I wish to pass on our condolences to the family and friends of Dawn at this terrible time. I cannot begin to imagine the pain and suffering they must be feeling, coupled with all the questions they need answer to.”
Authorities say Sturgess, along with her boyfriend, 45-year-old Charlie Rowley, became sick after they were exposed to Novichok on June 30.
The couple was admitted to the hospital in critical condition.
"This is shocking and tragic news. Dawn leaves behind her family, including three children, and our thoughts and prayers are with them at this extremely difficult time," said Neil Basu, assistant commissioner and head of UK Counter Terrorism policing.
Rowley's status has not changed, Basu added.
"The 45-year-old man who fell ill with Dawn remains critically ill in hospital and our thoughts are with him and his family as well," he said.
A preliminary investigation revealed Sturgess and Rowley were allegedly exposed to the military-grade nerve agent through a contaminated item that was linked to a March attack that poisoned ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury. Britain blames Russia for the attack, however, Russia has denied the allegation.
On Twitter, Prime Minister Theresa May said she was “appalled and shocked” by Sturgess’ death.
“I am appalled and shocked by the death of Dawn Sturgess, and my thoughts and condolences go to her family and loved ones,” May wrote on Twitter. “Police and security officials are working urgently to establish the facts of this incident, which is now being investigated as a murder.”
"The Government is committed to providing full support to the local community as it deals with this tragedy," she wrote in a second tweet.
Dozens of detectives are working on the investigation, which is being led by the Counter Terrorism Policing Network, as well as officers from the Wiltshire Police Department.
Authorities are still trying to determine if both instances of Novichok exposure are linked.