Home / NEWS / Wiltshire ‘major incident’: Amesbury pair critically ill after exposure to ‘unknown substance’ near Salisbury

Wiltshire ‘major incident’: Amesbury pair critically ill after exposure to ‘unknown substance’ near Salisbury

A major incident has been declared in Wiltshire after it was suspected that two people left fighting for their lives might have been exposed to an “unknown substance”.

The man and woman, both in their 40s, were found unconscious at a property in Amesbury – close to Salisbury, where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and daughter Yulia were poisoned by a suspected military nerve agent in March.

Wiltshire Police initially thought the pair’s collapse on Saturday was drugs-related, but have since said it is suspected they “might have been exposed to an unknown substance”.

Detectives are “open-minded” as to the cause and further tests are being carried out. The Government said ministers are “being kept up to date about the incident”.

The man and woman are in a critical condition at Salisbury District Hospital, which is where the Skripals were treated after their poisoning earlier this year.

Police at a housing development in Amesbury after a man and woman fell ill when they are feared to have been ‘exposed to an unknown substance’

Credit:
Matt Dunham /PA

Several places in the Amesbury and Salisbury area, which are are believed to be areas the pair visited before they fell ill, were cordoned off on Wednesday.

Is believed one of the last places the couple were seen in public was at a family fun day at Amesbury Baptist Centre on Saturday afternoon.

A police officer outside Amesbury Baptist Centre – one of the places cordoned off by police on Wednesday

Credit:
Tony Kershaw/SWNS.com 

Public Health England (PHE) said it did not believe there to be a “significant health risk” to the wider public, although its advice was being continually assessed.

Police said it was not yet clear if the pair were the victims of a crime, but detectives are keeping an “open mind” around the circumstances.

Amesbury is about eight miles from Salisbury, where the Skirpals were poisoned. The British government has accused Russia of being behind the attack on Mr Skripal, who settled in the UK after a spy swap, and his daughter.

Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were left in a critical condition in Salisbury

The pair in Amesbury were found unconscious at an address in Muggleton Road on Saturday evening and it was at first believed they might have taken Class A drugs.

“It was initially believed that the two patients fell ill after using possibly heroin or crack cocaine from a contaminated batch of drugs,” police said.

“However, further testing is now ongoing to establish the substance which led to these patients becoming ill and we are keeping an open mind as to the circumstances surrounding this incident.”

A police officer stands outside a block of flats in Muggleton Road, Amesbury, on Wednesday

Credit:
Rod Minchin /PA

A PHE spokesman said: “The current advice from PHE England, based upon the number of casualties affected, is that it is not believed that there is a significant health risk to the wider public.

“This will be continually assessed as further information becomes known”.

Areas pair visited before they fell ill cordoned off

A number of scenes believed to be areas the pair visited before they fell ill were cordoned off overnight.

On Muggleton Road, where the man and woman were found, there was one police officer on duty outside a block of newly-built flats.

The road is on an estate, which is still under construction, on the southern edge of Amesbury, which lies close to Stonehenge.

Local resident Jake Murphy spoke of his shock at the police presence.

“Round here we just don’t want any unwanted attention,” he said. “We just want a quiet life and keep ourselves to ourselves. It’s a new estate, so we just don’t know each other.”

A police officer in Muggleton Road on Wednesday

Credit:
Tony Kershaw/SWNS.com 

College student Chloe Edwards described seeing police cars, fire engines and people in “green suits” on Saturday night.

“We saw everything,” the 17-year-old, who lives near the cordoned-off flat, said. “We were just eating our dinner and all these emergency vehicles turned up.

“They were putting on these green suits and we thought it was the gas as our electricity was turned off as well.”

Miss Edwards said the vehicles arrived at about 7pm and she and her family were told to stay inside their home until about 10pm.

“We wanted to know what happened and with the Russian attack happening not long ago, and we just assumed the worst,” she said.

“I am not sure how long they were in there but we couldn’t get out of the house for two-and-a-half hours.”

A police officer stands outside Amesbury Baptist Centre

Credit:
Rod Minchin /PA

Around two miles away there was another police cordon at Amesbury Baptist Centre, also guarded by one police officer.

The centre is believed one of the last places the couple were seen in public on Saturday, during a family fun day.

Roy Collins, church secretary, said: “Last weekend we held a community fundraiser and we understand this may well be the last event this couple went to in public.”

He said he woke to find the church cordoned off by police at 6am on Wednesday.

A lone officer at the door to the Amesbury Baptist Centre, where the pair are believed to have visited on Saturday

Credit:
Tony Kershaw/SWNS.com 

“We are all quite puzzled and shocked – naturally the connection with Salisbury and recent events there mean there is a heightened public interest,” Mr Collins added.

“We are praying for the couple, one of our members knows them and clearly there are concerns for them and any others in the community.

“They are not church members or regulars.”

Police have cordoned off several areas around Amesbury and Salisbury

Credit:
Tony Kershaw/SWNS.com 

Mr Collins said around 200 people attended the community event, including many families and children, but “nobody else has suffered any ill-effects”.

“There have been no reports of any other incidents,” he added. “It was a beautiful, sunny day and it was a glorious event, there was nothing going on that was nefarious.

“This is a real surprise and shock to us – we do continue to keep the couple in our prayers.”

The pair are being treated at Salisbury District Hospital

Credit:
CHRIS J RATCLIFFE /AFP

Meanwhile, there was an increased police presence in and around Amesbury and Salisbury.

Salisbury District Hospital was “open as usual” and officials advised people to attend routine appointments unless they are contacted to do otherwise.

Police statement as ‘major incident’ declared

A Wiltshire Police statement said: “Wiltshire Police and partners have this evening declared a major incident after it is suspected that two people might have been exposed to an unknown substance in Amesbury.

“Emergency services were called to an address in Muggleton Road, Amesbury on Saturday evening (June 30) after a man and woman, both in their 40s, were found unconscious in a property.

“They are both currently receiving treatment for suspected exposure to an unknown substance at Salisbury District Hospital. They are both in a critical condition.

“It was initially believed that the two patients fell ill after using possibly heroin or crack cocaine from a contaminated batch of drugs.

“However, further testing is now ongoing to establish the substance which led to these patients becoming ill and we are keeping an open mind as to the circumstances surrounding this incident.”

Amesbury is around eight miles from Salisbury

Salisbury locked behind cordons for two months after Skripals poisoning

The Amesbury incident comes almost two months after police finished investigating every area linked to the Skripal poisoning case in Salisbury. 

Parts of the Wiltshire city were locked behind police cordons for more than two months as officers and soldiers worked to gather evidence and clean up areas affected by the Novichok nerve agent.

Police officers cordon off the road where Russian double agent Sergei Skripal lived in Salisbury

Credit:
Matt Dunham /AP

Mr Skripal, 67, and his daughter, 33, were left in a critical condition after they were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury city centre on March 4.

They spent weeks in Salisbury District Hospital where they underwent treatment for suspected exposure to the Russian-created nerve agent Novichok.

Counter-terrorism teams from Scotland Yard were called in to lead the investigation when Wiltshire Police was faced with the poisoning of the Skripals.

On Wednesday morning, Scotland Yard was referring media calls to Wiltshire Police.

Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/04/major-incident-inamesbury-unknown-substance-leaves-two-people/

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