Police investigating how two people were exposed to the nerve agent novichok in Wiltshire are expected to remain in the county for months.
Salisbury and nearby Amesbury are being scoured for traces of the potentially deadly nerve agent after Dawn Sturgess, 44, and her partner, Charlie Rowley, 45, were taken ill at a house in Amesbury on Saturday.
The couple both fell ill after “handling a contaminated item” and remain in a critical condition, Scotland Yard said.
Police have been unable to locate the source of the contamination and have not ruled out more people falling ill from coming into contact with the substance left over after Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were targeted.
One theory understood to be under investigation is whether the pair inadvertently found the container used to transport the nerve agent in the Skripal attack before being discarded.
Mr Rowley has been described as having foraged for goods to fix and sell, and is known to have collected discarded cigarettes.
The Metropolitan Police said: “Due to the unique challenges involved with this operation, police activity is expected to take weeks and months to complete.
“The focus of the investigation remains identifying the source of the contamination as quickly as possible. “
The Met says around 100 counter-terror officers are working “round the clock” alongside Wiltshire Police to identify the source of contamination.
Police have pieced together the following timeline of events:
Friday 28 June
12.20pm – Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley are together at John Baker House – a supported housing scheme in Salisbury – about half an mile from the Zizzi restaurant where the Skripals dined before becoming ill.
They then leave and visit a number of shops in Salisbury before going to Queen Elizabeth Gardens.
4.20pm – They return to John Baker House.
10.30pm – They catch a bus to Amesbury.
Police say they believe the couple then spent the night at Muggleton Road, Amesbury.
Saturday 30 June
10.15am – South West Ambulance Service is called to Muggleton Road, where Dawn Sturgess is taken ill. Charlie Rowley is also present at the address.
Midday – Charlie Rowley visits a Boots chemist on Stonehenge Walk in Amesbury and then returns to Muggleton Road around half an hour later.
1pm – He visits the Amesbury Baptist Centre about a mile from the house.
3pm – He returns home.
6.20pm – The South West Ambulance Service is called back to the address on Muggleton Road and Mr Rowley is also taken to hospital.
Police say they have spoken to “several key witnesses” and are trawling through more than 1,300 hours of CCTV footage.
Officers in hazmat suits are investigating key locations in Amesbury and Salisbury, and the sites have been cordoned off as a precaution as “meticulous and systematic searches” take place.
Police said there was no evidence that Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley visited any of the sites that were decontaminated following the attempted murders of Sergei and Yulia Skripal.
“We are not in a position to say whether the nerve agent was from the same batch that the Skripals were exposed to,” they said.
From – SkyNews