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Police contact 131 people over Salisbury nerve agent fears

Police and health officials have identified 131 people who could have been exposed to the nerve agent that has left Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in a critical condition

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Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Police contact 131 people over Salisbury nerve agent fears” was written by Steven Morris and Caroline Bannock, for theguardian.com on Thursday 15th March 2018 22.57 UTC

Police and health officials have identified 131 people who could have been exposed to the nerve agent that has left Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in a critical condition, it has emerged.

It was also revealed on Thursday that 46 people have attended hospital in Salisbury expressing concern that they could be affected.

Public health officials said it was possible – though unlikely – that clothes or possessions of those who ate and drank in the same restaurant and pub as the Skripals could still be contaminated.

However, a public meeting held at City Hall in Salisbury was told that only the Skripals and DS Nick Bailey had received hospital treatment.

Novichok refers to a group of nerve agents developed by the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 80s to elude international restrictions on chemical weapons. Like other nerve agents, they are organophosphate compounds, but the chemicals used to make them, and their final structures, are considered classified in the UK, the US and other countries.

The most potent of the novichok substances are considered to be more lethal than VX, the most deadly of the familiar nerve agents, which include sarin, tabun and soman.

While the novichok agents work in a similar way, by massively over-stimulating muscles and glands, one chemical weapons expert said the agents did not degrade fast in the environment and had ‘an additional toxicity that was not well understood. Treatment for novichok exposure would be the same as for other nerve agents, namely with atropine, diazepam and potentially drugs called oximes.

The chemical structures of novichok agents were made public in 2008 by Vil Mirzayanov, a former Russian scientist living in the US, but the structures have never been publicly confirmed. It is thought they can be made in different forms, including as a dust aerosol.

The novichoks are known as binary agents because they only become lethal  after mixing two otherwise harmless components. According to Mirzayanov, they are 10 to 100 times more toxic than conventional nerve agents.

While laboratories that are used to police chemical weapons incidents have databases of nerve agents, few outside Russia are believed to have full details of the novichok compounds and the chemicals needed to make them.

Jenny Harries, regional director at Public Health England, accepted it was difficult for people to understand why they were allowed to get close to scenes that were being examined by officers in protective hazmat suits.

But she said: “The risk to the general public is low. There are only three cases in hospital. No members of the public have been harmed by this incident. It’s an important message to hang on to.”

Health and council officials, as well as police, promised to be as open as they could to allay fears, and public health representatives will be at the Saturday market in Salisbury to speak to anyone with concerns.

The deputy chief constable of Wiltshire, Paul Mills, said: “46 people have attended [hospital] expressing concern. Each has been assessed but other than the three patients you are aware of no other persons have required hospital admission.

“We have identified 131 people who potentially could have been in contact with the nerve agent and each of these has received calls to ensure their wellbeing. None of these persons have developed symptoms that would indicate they have been exposed to the agent.”

Mills called the nature and scale of the operation “unprecedented”.

He revealed almost 500 police officers and staff were involved backed up by 200 military personnel. There were also 80 ambulance staff on hand every day from nine out of the 10 ambulance trusts nationwide and 50 firefighters. Mills said that cordons could be in place for months to come.

Council leaders accepted that the international reputation of Salisbury could be dented by the attack and the economic impact could be severe.

They announced measures including business rate relief for those affected and the launch of a hardship fund for those worst hit. Park and rides in the city will be free from Saturday until Easter Monday – though there were howls of protest when the council insisted that parking costs in the city would not be reduced.

Asked what the city’s feelings towards Russia, Salisbury’s Conservative MP John Glen said: “People are outraged that a silent assassin could attempt murder. But our message to the people of Russia s that they are always welcome in Salisbury. Our issue is with the Putin regime.”

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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Crime

Teen Found Guilty Of Killing Shopkeeper Over Cigarette Papers

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A teenager found guilty of the killing of a family man outside his Mill Hill shop after he refused to sell cigarette papers to him and his friends has been sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.

The 16-year-old from Brent was sentenced at the Old Bailey today [Friday 7 September] after being convicted of the manslaughter of Vijaykumar Patel on Monday, 9 July.

An investigation was launched after officers were initially called at about 23:45hrs on Saturday, 6 January by the London Ambulance Service to reports of a man who had been assaulted and injured on The Broadway, NW7.

Vijaykumar, 49, from the Colindale area was taken to a central London hospital for treatment but died during the evening of Monday, 8 January.

Detectives found that the victim had been at work in the shop on the evening of Saturday, 6 January. Three teenage boys came into the shop and tried to buy some items including cigarette papers. Due to concerns about their age and a potential breach of licensing laws they were refused service after they were unable to provide suitable identification.

The three were unhappy about the decision and became aggressive, threatening to vandalise the shop.

Vijaykumar and a colleague went outside after them to ensure no damage was done to the shop. The youth continued to be aggressive challenging the pair to a fight and being abusive.

Vijaykumar did not move towards or gesture at any of the group; he only went outside to ensure his shop would not be damaged. While he was waiting for them to move on he was struck by the 16-year-old boy with force across his neck causing him to fall to the floor and suffer catastrophic head injuries.

The colleague was also punched by the teenagers. He suffered minor injuries, but did not require hospital treatment.

A post-mortem examination held at Northwick Park Hospital Mortuary on Thursday, 11 January gave the provisional cause of Mr Patel’s death as head injuries.

An investigation was immediately launched by officers from the Homicide and Major Crime Command. Forensic analysis was completed at the extensive crime scene and local CCTV footage from inside and outside the shop captured those involved.

They were circulated to local CID officers and detectives, and arrested two days later on Monday, 8 January. The youth refused to cooperate with police and answered “no comment” to even the most basic questions put to him.

Two boys – [B] aged 16 and [C] aged 15 – were arrested after they attended a central London police station on the evening of Wednesday, 10 January. They were subsequently bailed.

The 16-year-old [B] was given a youth caution on Thursday, 22 March for a Section 4 Public Order Act offence in relation to his actions towards the shop owner and witness. The 15-year-old [C] was released with no further action on all matters on Friday, 19 January.

Detective Chief Inspector Luke Marks, from the Homicide and Major Crime Command, said: “It beggars belief that a family man with two kids has lost his life over an argument about cigarette papers that got out of hand. This was an unprovoked spontaneous incident sparked entirely by the refusal to let the suspects buy what they wanted.

“A man has lost his life for no reason other than trying to uphold the law, which is there to protect everyone – including young people.

“I would like to praise the work of the team who built a strong case, and the victim’s family and friends who have conducted themselves with the utmost dignity.

“Vijaykumar was a loving son, brother, father and husband, and his family are left mourning his death, wondering how someone could use such abhorrent and casual violence. I hope this conviction will bring some sense of justice to the family who have been devastated by Vijaykumar’s murder. He truly was a decent, hard-working family man who in no way contributed to his own demise.

“I would like to add that the local policing team in the Mill Hill area are in regular contact with business owners and other members of the community. Since this attack, officers have been meeting local retailers to provide reassurance and crime prevention advice. Officers will continue to engage with the business community to gauge any concerns they have.”

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Man jailed for Grenfell fire fraud and drugs offences

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A man who fraudulently obtained over £80,000 of funding that had been made available to those affected by the Grenfell Tower fire has been jailed at Isleworth Crown Court.

Yonatan Eyob, 26 (05.07.92) of no fixed address was sentenced today, (Friday, 7 September), to three years and four months’ imprisonment after pleading guilty on 30 July to one count of fraud by false representation in relation to the Grenfell Tower fire.

Eyob was also jailed for a further three years and four months – making a total of six years and eight months’ imprisonment – after pleading guilty on 6 July to the further offences of: 
– possession with intent to supply class A drugs (MDMA);
– possession with intent to supply class A drugs (cocaine);
– possession with intent to supply class B drugs (ketamine);
– possession with intent to supply class B drugs (cannabis);
– possession of criminal property.

The court heard how at the time of the fire, Eyob lived next to Grenfell Tower at an address in Hurstway Walk. However, he claimed he lived within Grenfell Tower in order to claim hotel accommodation and money – in total he fraudulently claimed £86,831.55.

Officers investigating matters of fraud linked to Grenfell Tower identified Eyob as a suspect and officers attended the hotel where he was being accommodated to arrest him. On entering the room, they found a large quantity of class A and class B drugs; over 120 wraps of MDMA, 89 wraps of cocaine, 30 wraps of Ketamine and 17 wraps of cannabis.

Eyob was further arrested for drug offences.

The drugs carried a street value of over £6,500. £3,000 cash was also seized as criminal property when officers discovered the drugs.

Detective Superintendent, Matt Bonner, the senior investigating officer for Operation Northleigh, said: “It is ironic that Eyob would have legitimately qualified to financial support if he had just told the truth as at the time of the fire he was living in a residence that fell within the Grenfell Tower footprint.

“However, he chose to concoct a story which he knew was false in a bid to obtain money and accommodation.

“His fraudulent acts were further compounded when officers found quantities of drugs within the hotel room he had been given to stay in.

“Eyob now must face the consequences of his actions with considerable time in jail.”

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Crime

2 dead, 4 critically injured after active shooter incident in downtown Cincinnati

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Police in the US city of Cincinnati say they’ve responded to an active shooter situation at a building downtown.

The Cincinatti Police Department said in a tweet on Thursday they were investigating an “active shooter/officer involved shooting” at the Fifth Third Bank, which is located in the city’s Fountain Square, a busy meeting place.

(Al Jazeera)

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