Two people in critical condition after being ‘exposed to unknown substance’ in Wiltshire.
A man and a woman in their 40s are in a critical condition after suspected exposure to an unknown substance in Amesbury, Wiltshire.
Police declared a major incident on Tuesday after the pair were found unconscious in a house in Muggleton Road on Saturday night.
They are both being treated at Salisbury District Hospital.
The town of Amesbury is roughly eight miles from the city of Salisbury, where former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were targeted with the nerve agent novichok in March.
Police initially believed the Amesbury pair, who have not been named, fell ill after using heroin or crack cocaine from a contaminated batch of drugs.
But further tests are now taking place to establish the substance, with police said to be “keeping an open mind” as to the circumstances around the case.
It remains unclear if a crime has been committed.
It is believed one of the last places the couple were seen in public was a family fun day at Amesbury Baptist Church on Saturday afternoon.
Roy Collins, church secretary, said: “Last weekend we held a community fundraiser and we understand this may well be the last event this couple went to in public.”
He said he woke to find the church cordoned off by police at 6am on Wednesday.
“We are all quite puzzled and shocked – naturally the connection with Salisbury and recent events there mean there is a heightened public interest,” he added.
“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.”
Mr Collins said around 200 people attended the community event, including many families and children, but “nobody else has suffered any ill effects”.
“There have been no reports of any other incidents,” he added.
“It was a beautiful, sunny day and it was a glorious event, there was nothing going on that was nefarious.
“This is a real surprise and shock to us – we do continue to keep the couple in our prayers.”
Parts of Amesbury and Salisbury thought to have been visited by the pair will be cordoned off overnight as a precautionary measure.
Those living in the areas have been told to expect an increased police presence.
Salisbury District Hospital is open as usual and patients are advised to attend appointments unless told otherwise.
A Public Health England (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.”
A government spokesman said: “Ministers are being kept up to date about the incident in Amesbury.”
The police and crime commissioner for Wiltshire and Swindon Angus Macpherson says there is nothing to suggest the incident is “in any way connected to Skripal case at this moment in time”.
He also told the BBC: “I haven’t seen anything in this incident yet that I would consider to be an overreaction, it all seems fairly textbook.”
Mr Skripal and his daughter both survived being poisoned with a nerve agent in an attack the British government has blamed on Russia.
Ms Skripal said after being released from hospital: “We are so lucky to have both survived this attempted assassination.
“Our recovery has been slow and extremely painful.”
Her father, who has not yet spoken to the media, was discharged from hospital in May.
The pair each spent weeks in a coma after they were found frothing at the mouth on a bench in Salisbury on March 4.
Wiltshire Police gave an update on Wednesday, saying: “We continue to deal with the major incident declared in the Amesbury area.