UK MP tests positive for nerve agent

A Conservative party MP has tested positive for the combined nerve agent Cobalt-60 and an organophosphate on-site security chemicals which are harmful to humans, the party said.

The substances were detected at Richard Lehoux’s constituency office in Enfield, north London, the party said. The substance is classified as a weapon of mass destruction and was found last week, alongside a small number of his emails, it said.

Lehoux, the party’s shadow customs secretary, is not charged with any crime.

MPs are kept on quarantine so no ministers or ministers of the Crown visit the place of work. This is always necessary and will continue at Lehoux’s office.

“All those in contact with the samples have been released from the premises, as a precaution,” the party said.

In a statement, Lehoux said: “This afternoon I went through a routine examination after meeting constituency activists in my Enfield constituency office. I was sent some samples for testing. They tested positive for both Cobalt-60 and Organophosphate-based materials which are outlawed in the UK. I remain in contact with the Health Protection Agency, who are able to confirm that there is no threat to the public at large. The standard form of decontamination is completed for staff and there are no other employees at the premises.”

Dr Andrew Whitworth, Head of Biosecurity at the Wellcome Trust, said the substance found was classified as “a weapon of mass destruction and could kill thousands of people.”

“We are working closely with the Government to bring this perpetrator to justice and ensure that his motivation for using these toxic chemicals is identified,” he said.

Lehoux’s is the fourth case of the substance to surface in recent months in the UK. Two soldiers, 42-year-old Corporal James Sutherland and 39-year-old Trooper Daniel Wade, fell ill at a public event in August. In September, a former MI6 employee, Sergeant Christopher Stevens, was detained by Russian secret agents on a Moscow trolleybus as he left a business meeting. He is thought to have fallen sick following a “specific nerve agent attack.”

The events sparked tensions between the two countries, whose relations were already sharply strained.

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