My deepest condolences to Dawn Sturgess

I was deeply saddened to hear the news last night that my constituent, Dawn Sturgess, had passed away at Salisbury District Hospital. My thoughts are with her friends and family at this awful time. The medical staff who had been working tirelessly to save her life will be as devastated as the rest of us at this tragic outcome. Her partner, Charlie Rowley, remains in critical condition at the hospital, and I know that the team treating him has the admiration and support of everyone in Salisbury and Amesbury.

This morning I have spoken with the leaders of Wiltshire Council and Salisbury City Council and I stressed the importance of the police investigation being conducted as swiftly and comprehensively as possible. In particular, it will be important that the town path linking Harnham to the city centre through the water meadows is opened as quickly as possible. Over the weekend, I also accompanied the Home Secretary, Sajid Javid on his visit to Amesbury and Salisbury. The Home Secretary understands the seriousness of the situation and has promised that all the resources necessary will be provided.

Over the past four months, I have received regular correspondence from constituents arguing that the police overreacted in March and exaggerated the threat. Now, over the weekend, I have received emails stating the exact opposite, and that the police did not do enough. Both of these views are wrong. All the sites known to be visited by the Skripals and connected with the original Novichok incident in March were secured and cordoned off. The poisoning of Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley is very likely the result of picking up a discarded container from the original attack, at a site not previously connected to the Skripal case. The only way the current poisoning could likely have been averted would have been to conduct a fingertip search of every square inch of South Wiltshire – a logistical impossibility, especially when there was no way for the police to know that an object from the original incident had been discarded like this.

I would encourage everyone to follow the Public Health England advice (https://www.gov.uk/…/…/phe-statement-on-incident-in-amesbury) and remember that there is only a low risk to the public. I realise that events are disconcerting, but Salisbury and Amesbury remain open to local residents and tourists alike. Only a small number of sites are cordoned off and the authorities will release further information as it becomes available.

There is always a temptation in these circumstances to look to blame the government, or the police, or the local authority. But we must not lose sight of the fact that responsibility for the fact that a military-grade nerve agent was used in Salisbury and South Wiltshire, rests with Vladimir Putin's Kremlin alone.