A couple who are in a critical condition after they were exposed to a mystery substance were left hallucinating and then unconscious, a man claiming to be their friend has said.
Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess were found unconscious in a street in Amesbury after being exposed to the unknown substance in what police have termed a ‘major incident’.
Amesbury is jut seven miles from where Russian spy Sergei Skirpal was poisoned with his daughter four months ago.
Counter-terrorism police are working with officers from Wiltshire Police to investigate this incident, which has sparked concerns that the couple also fell victim to a nerve agent.
The substance has now been sent to experts at the Government chemical weapons research laboratory at Porton Down.
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It was reported that mother-of-three Dawn, who is said to have lived at a homeless shelter in Salisbury near to where the Skripals were poisoned, was found at Charlie’s home seven miles away in Amesbury on Saturday.
Sam Hobson, 29, who claimed to be a friend of the couple, told reporters he had seen the couple the night before they fell ill and went to see them again at about 11am the next day.
He said Dawn had been taken to hospital on Saturday after falling unconscious and Charlie had got ill a few hours afterwards.
“He felt ill and went for a shower,” he said. “Then his eyes went bloodshot and like two pin pricks, he began garbling incoherently and I could tell he was hallucinating.
“Charlie was dribbling and was rocking backwards and forwards. He wasn’t high or anything. He was stone cold sober. It was like nothing I’d ever seen.”
In a statement, Scotland Yard said: “As you would expect, given the recent events in Salisbury, officers from the counter terrorism network are working jointly with colleagues from Wiltshire Police regarding the incident in Amesbury.
“As Wiltshire Police have stated, they are keeping an open mind as to the circumstances surrounding the incident and will update the public as soon and as regularly as possible.’
Public Health England (PHE) advised that it did not believe there to be a ‘significant health risk’ to the wider public, although its advice was being reviewed.
The incident comes after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were left poisoned by a suspected military nerve agent in Salisbury.
Police said the man and woman were found unconscious at an address in Muggleton Road on Saturday evening.
The address is thought to be close to the Amesbury Baptist Centre on a new housing development on the southern edge of the town, which lies close to Stonehenge.
Police and emergency services initially believed the pair may have taken illegal drugs.
Amesbury Baptist Centre Church secretary Roy Collins said: ‘Last weekend we held a community fundraiser and we understand this may well be the last event this couple went to in public.
‘We are all quite puzzled and shocked – naturally the connection with Salisbury and recent events there mean there is a heightened public interest.
‘We are praying for the couple. One of our members knows them and clearly there are concerns for them and any others in the community.
‘They are not church members or regulars.’
A police statement said: ‘Wiltshire Police and partners have this evening declared a major incident after it is suspected that two people might have been exposed to an unknown substance in Amesbury.
‘Emergency services were called to an address in Muggleton Road, Amesbury on Saturday evening (June 30) after a man and woman, both in their 40s, were found unconscious in a property.
‘They are both currently receiving treatment for suspected exposure to an unknown substance at Salisbury District Hospital. They are both in a critical condition.
‘It was initially believed that the two patients fell ill after using possibly heroin or crack cocaine from a contaminated batch of drugs.
‘However, further testing is now ongoing to establish the substance which led to these patients becoming ill and we are keeping an open mind as to the circumstances surrounding this incident.’
>A number of scenes believed to be areas they frequented before they fell ill were cordoned off overnight.
Meanwhile there was an increased police presence in and around Amesbury and Salisbury.
Salisbury District Hospital was ‘open as usual’ and officials advised people to attend routine appointments unless they are contacted to do otherwise.
A PHE spokesman said: ‘The current advice from PHE England, based upon the number of casualties affected, is that it is not believed that there is a significant health risk to the wider public. This will be continually assessed as further information becomes known.’
Mr Skripal, 67, and his daughter, 33, were left in a critical condition after they were found slumped on a bench in Salisbury city centre on March 4.
They spent weeks in Salisbury District Hospital where they underwent treatment for suspected exposure to the Russian-created nerve agent Novichok.
The British Government has accused Russia of being behind the attack on Mr Skripal, who settled in the UK after a spy swap.