Statement from DCC Paul Mills following public meeting

A public meeting was held in Salisbury on Tuesday 24 July 2018 to update the local community on the major incident in Amesbury and Salisbury. The following statement was read by Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills who is also chair of the Strategic Coordinating Group.

Major Incident Amesbury

My role across both incidents is and has been, to coordinate the response of all the partnership agencies involved. At this time in excess of 12 partners are continuing to work together to manage the consequences of the incident, to ensure an effective investigation and you the public are kept safe.

In relation to the progress of the investigation, as we know it's now three weeks since this incident unfolded in our county and Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess become critically ill, further to being poisoned by Novichok.

The subsequent tragic death of Dawn has been felt deeply across our communities. Our thoughts remain with Dawn's family and friends as they continue to come to terms with their loss.

Set against this context, it was heartening to see the discharge of Charlie Rowley from hospital late last week, further to the excellent work once again of Salisbury District Hospital.

We wish Charlie all the very best for his ongoing recovery from what has, no doubt, been an utterly terrifying and traumatic ordeal for him and we will continue to support him alongside partners on that journey.

This investigation is a murder inquiry And as you will be aware, it is being led by the Counter Terrorism Policing network with the full support of Wiltshire Police. The investigation team continue to work tirelessly to piece together the timeline and circumstances which led to this shocking incident.

The work of the investigation is painstaking. Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, who some of you may have met at the last Amesbury public meeting, has been very clear that it is one of the most complex and difficult investigations that UK policing has ever faced. 

You will know that CT police recovered a small bottle, containing Novichok, from the address in Muggleton Road and detectives believe this to be the source of the contamination of Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess.

Work continues to try and establish whether the nerve agent is from the same batch as used in the attack against Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March, and this remains a key line of enquiry for the investigation team.

Similarly the CT police are focused on further building the picture of how and where Charlie and Dawn came into possession of the small bottle.

Searches continue at various scenes as officers look to identify any other potential sites or sources of contamination, as well as to gather further evidence to assist with the investigation.

More than 400 exhibits have been recovered and hours of CCTV are being reviewed. In total more than 100 specialist officers remain deployed on this investigation supported by local colleagues and partners.

I understand that some of you may have questions about specifics relating to the ongoing investigation. I hope that you will understand that this is also a highly sensitive investigation and therefore careful consideration needs to be given to the amount of information that can be put into the public domain. Please be reassured the investigation is making good progress and Counter Terrorism Policing Team are committed to giving updates regarding the investigation where operationally they are able to do so.

The investigation team remain keen to hear from anyone who believes they may have information which could help the police investigation. The phone number for the CT hotline is 0800 789 321. This is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

I am pleased to update that the John Baker House scene in Salisbury, has today been handed back by the investigation to Wiltshire Council and the cordons are as we speak being removed at that location. Thankfully no contamination was found at that scene and the Council will now work with the tenants and the Housing Association to consider what work needs to be undertaken to get the location back up and running.

As you will be aware other Cordons remain in place in and around Salisbury and Amesbury, guarded by Wiltshire Police officers and supported by private security guards.

The locations of the cordons in Salisbury are:

  • Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury

And in Amesbury:

  • A property on Muggleton Road
  • Boots the Chemist, on Stonehenge Walk
  • Amesbury Baptist Centre on Butterfield Drive

In relation to Queen Elizabeth Gardens, you will be aware that we began serching there last week and it is expected this will take a few more days to complete. We are taking a highly precautionary approach; it is important to state we have no specific intelligence to indicate there is a specific risk at that site. We do know however,  that Charlie and Dawn attended the location the day before, so it is absolutely right that we thoroughly search the location, so the public can return to the location with confidence when we remove the cordons.

To give an overview of the extent of that exercise, we have used 24 specialist trained search officers to search the park and they are removing all items of rubbish and other unknown items from the area. In certain areas such as the play park we are undertaking fingertip searches on an assurance basis, as we know that these areas will understandably be of a higher level of concern to the public.

We are also using specially trained officers to search the river. 

So far in what was already a very clean park, we have removed 5 industrial size bins of waste, so hopefully this gives you an insight into how meticulous and detailed this search is.

Can I thank the public for your continued patience with the impact of these cordons upon your daily lives, we do not underestimate this. I am particularly aware of the impact of the temporary closure of the town path. However, I am sure you understand that public safety must come first and this is the reason for the detailed and meticulous searches at each location.

When we get to the point of releasing scenes back to the public, we are working with Wiltshire Council, Public Health England and DEFRA to ensure that each scene is assessed and where required decontamination work is undertaken. The process is also overseen by key specialist government scientists who ensure the robustness of the approach.

Finally in closing, on behalf of Wiltshire Police and all of the partners involved in the operation, I would like to once again say thank you to the public of Salisbury and Amesbury, for your support, continued patience and resilience as we manage this complex and extraordinary investigation within your communities.

 

Published Tuesday 24 July 2018