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Amesbury poisoning victims fell ill after handling contaminated item — police

"Meticulous and systematic searches are under way at a number of sites," police said

LONDON, July 6. /TASS/. Two people exposed to an unknown poisoning agent in the British town of Amesbury fell ill after handling a contaminated item, the UK Metropolitan Police said in a statement on Thursday.

"Following further tests of samples from the patients, we now know that they were exposed to the nerve agent after handling a contaminated item," police said. "Detectives are working as quickly and as diligently as possible to identify the source of the contamination."

"Meticulous and systematic searches are under way at a number of sites," the statement reads. "The safety of the public and our officers remains paramount and the searches will take longer because of the precautions that we must take to ensure there is no outstanding risk."

Officers are wearing protective equipment while carrying out investigative procedures.

According to earlier reports, late on June 30, a 44-year-old woman and a 45-year-old man were found unconscious in their home in Amesbury. They were hospitalized in critical condition to a hospital in Salisbury, located some 13 kilometers from Amesbury. The victims were later identified as Charles Rowley and Dawn Sturgess.

Later, Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism chief, Neil Basu, claimed the victims were exposed to Novichok, the same nerve agent that was allegedly used to poison former Russian military intelligence officer Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March. At that time, London blamed Moscow for the incident. Russia has strongly denied any involvement on numerous occasions.