Relatives of woman poisoned by Novichok wait for judges’ inquest ruling

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Relatives of a woman who died after being poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok are waiting for a ruling after taking High Court action in a bid to get “key questions” asked about Russian state involvement.

Members of Dawn Sturgess’s family say a coroner wrongly decided to limit what issues will be considered at an inquest.

A barrister representing them said the question of who was responsible for the use of Novichok was a matter of “almost-unparalleled public concern”.

Michael Mansfield QC on Wednesday told two judges an act of “state terrorism” could not be “artificially truncated”.

Ms Sturgess, 44, died in hospital in Salisbury, Wiltshire, in July 2018 after collapsing at her partner Charlie Rowley’s home in Amesbury.

Members of her family say David Ridley, the senior coroner for Wiltshire, was wrong to limit the scope of an inquest and his decision should be quashed.

Lawyers representing Mr Ridley and Home Secretary Priti Patel disagree and say the challenge should be dismissed.

Lord Justice Bean and Mr Justice Lewis, who considered rival arguments at a two-day High Court hearing which ended on Wednesday, are expected to deliver a ruling in the near future.

Judges heard that Ms Sturgess was exposed to the same military-grade nerve agent believed to have been used in an attempted assassination of former agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury in March 2018.

Mr Mansfield said the coroner had decided he would not consider whether any Russian state agents, other than the suspects – Russian military intelligence agents known as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov – were responsible for Ms Sturgess’s death, or issues relating to the source of the Novichok.

He said that meant the inquest would not investigate “credible allegations” that other Russian state agents were involved or “key questions” about how the operation was arranged.

Ms Sturgess’s daughter, who is at school, has technically challenged decisions Mr Ridley made about the inquest’s scope in December.

An adult relative acted as her “litigation friend” and instructed lawyers on her behalf.

Judges said Ms Sturgess’s daughter’s full name could not be revealed in media reports of the case.

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