THE two alleged Russian suspects accused of bringing the deadly Novichok nerve agent to Salisbury have been invited to aid the inquest of victim Dawn Sturgess.
The pair, known by aliases Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, were captured on CCTV images in the city on March 4, 2018, and are the prime suspects in the attempted assassinations of former Soviet spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.
Now, as part of a 31-page report, Wiltshire Senior Coroner David Ridley has labelled the pair as “interested parties” in the case, which is looking to find the facts into how Ms Sturgess was killed by the poison on July 8, 2018.
This means they have the right to actively participate in the inquest proceedings. However, he explains that the pair “may or may not wish to engage” in the case and “have not given any indication” that they wish to.
Police may also arrest them if they step foot in the UK.
As reported, evidence gathered by intelligence agencies concluded the men were officers from the Russian military intelligence service, the GRU.
But, Russia has repeatedly denied any involvement, with President Vladimir Putin claiming the two suspects were civilians, and the pair stating in an interview that they were tourists visiting the cathedral.
The Journal has contacted the Russian Embassy for comment.
In the report, published this week, Mr Ridley said: “As a result of reviewing the evidence, I have made both Mr Petrov and Mr Boshirov ‘Interested Persons’ on the basis that they may by an act or omission have caused or contributed to Ms Sturgess’s death.
“It will look at to what extent they were individually involved in bringing Novichok to Salisbury and what happened to the Novichok once it had been used in the attack relative to the appearance of Novichok again at the end of June 2018 in the town of Amesbury, a few miles to the north of Salisbury.
“This part of the investigation is essential as, in discharging my judicial role and hearing the evidence, I may have to consider whether the evidence supports the finding of a conclusion of ‘unlawful killing’ in respect of Ms Sturgess’s death.”
The coroner also revealed that two previously scheduled ‘Pre-Inquest Review’ hearings last year were pushed back due to intervention from the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). This was due to its on-running investigation.
However, the next pre-inquest review is still scheduled to take place on February 18 in Salisbury, Mr Ridley said.
The report also looked into the scope of the inquest after Michael Mansfield QC, who is representing the Sturgess family, urged Mr Ridley to hold an inquest under the terms of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
This would mean the hearing would be widened to consider “how and in what circumstances” Ms Sturgess died.
However Mr Ridley rejected this, adding that the hearing would follow a similar focus to other inquests, determining “who, when, where and how” her death occurred.
As part of his written submissions to the coroner, Mr Mansfield QC also raised the issue of “whether appropriate medical care was given to Ms Sturgess”.
In response, Mr Ridley said: “I am grateful to Mr Mansfield QC for raising this issue as I was unaware that it was of concern to his clients.
“I have discussed the matter with (counter-terror officer) DCI Murphy and understand that it related to evidence given by paramedics concerning an ‘antidote’ that was given to Mr Rowley along with other drugs when paramedics attended him at his home mid-afternoon on June 30 2018, but was not given to Ms Sturgess.
“I am unaware from my investigation that there is an antidote as such to Novichok poisoning.
“I have however tasked DCI Murphy to gather evidence relating to what treatment was given that varied as between Mr Rowley and Ms Sturgess, and if there was a reason for that variation to explain why, and the impact that difference may have made in relation to the outcome insofar as Ms Sturgess was concerned.
“Further advanced disclosure will be provided and insofar as my understanding of this issue is correct, I rule that it will fall within the scope Ms Sturgess’s inquest.”