They’ve found the Novi­chok

Bot­tle of nerve agent dis­cov­ered by the po­lice at home of one of lat­est vic­tims

Irish Daily Mail - - News - By Mail For­eign Ser­vice news@dai­ly­

DE­TEC­TIVES have found a bot­tle of deadly Novi­chok nerve agent in the home of one of the poi­son­ing vic­tims, it emerged last night.

The ma­jor break­through means in­ves­ti­ga­tors now have vi­tal foren­sic ev­i­dence which may help iden­tify those be­hind the at­tack.

It was found in the home of Char­lie Row­ley, 45, on Wed­nes­day – the day af­ter he re­gained con­scious­ness in hospi­tal.

His part­ner, Dawn Sturgess, 44, died af­ter the pair col­lapsed in Ames­bury, Wilt­shire, south­ern Eng­land, on June 30, hav­ing been ex­posed to the nerve agent.

It is not clear how the bot­tle came to be in Mr Row­ley’s home, but it is pos­si­ble he or his part­ner picked it up af­ter find­ing it in Sal­is­bury.

The bot­tle was sent to Bri­tain’s Por­ton Down lab­o­ra­tory in Wilt­shire for tests, which con­firmed that it con­tained the deadly nerve agent.

The pair sud­denly fell ill four months af­ter the at­tempted as­sas­si­na­tion of Rus­sian for­mer dou­bleagent Sergei Skri­pal and his daugh­ter Yu­lia – who were also poi­soned by Novi­chok in nearby Sal­is­bury.

One or both of the cou­ple could have found the con­tainer at the time of the Skri­pal at­tack in March and only opened it re­cently. Mr Row­ley, who is still in Sal­is­bury Dis­trict Hospi­tal in a se­ri­ous but sta­ble con­di­tion, may also be able to tell po­lice where the bot­tle was found – open­ing up new CCTV leads which could help iden­tify the would-be as­sas­sin or as­sas­sins.

Fur­ther tests will now be car­ried out to es­tab­lish whether the Novi­chok found in his home is from the same batch that con­tam­i­nated the Skri­pals.

The bot­tle will also be dusted for fin­ger­prints and checked for lin­ger­ing DNA ev­i­dence.

In­ves­ti­ga­tors will also ex­am­ine it to see if it has any dis­tinc­tive qual­i­ties which link it back to Rus­sia or lab­o­ra­to­ries there.

Last night, As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Neil Basu, Bri­tain’s an­titer­ror chief, warned that there could still be more Novi­chok on the streets.

He said: ‘This is clearly a sig­nif­i­cant and pos­i­tive devel­op­ment. How­ever, we can­not guar­an­tee that there isn’t any more of the sub­stance left, and cor­dons will re­main in place for some con­sid­er­able time.

‘This is to al­low thor­ough searches to con­tinue as a pre­cau­tion­ary mea­sure for pub­lic safety and to as­sist the in­ves­ti­ga­tion team. I also ap­pre­ci­ate there is a lot of in­ter­est in this; how­ever, we are not in a po­si­tion to dis­close any fur­ther de­tails re­gard­ing the bot­tle at this stage.’

Bri­tain’s For­eign Of­fice has in­vited in­ter­na­tional chem­i­cal weapons ex­perts to as­sist in the in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Staff from the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for the Pro­hi­bi­tion of Chem­i­cal Weapons will travel to Bri­tain next week to in­de­pen­dently con­firm the sub­stance is the nerve agent. Peter Wil­son, the UK per­ma­nent rep­re­sen­ta­tive to the OPCW, has writ­ten to its di­rec­tor gen­eral invit­ing them to as­sist in ac­cor­dance with Ar­ti­cle VIII 38(e) of the Chem­i­cal Weapons Con­ven­tion.

A British For­eign Of­fice spokesman said: ‘Dur­ing their visit they will be able to col­lect sam­ples to in­form this work.

‘These sam­ples will be an­a­lysed at highly rep­utable in­ter­na­tional lab­o­ra­to­ries des­ig­nated by the OPCW.’

Around 100 counter-ter­ror of­fi­cers con­tinue to work on the in­ves­ti­ga­tion, along­side Wilt­shire Po­lice.

Au­thor­i­ties have said the risk to the pub­lic in Sal­is­bury and Ames­bury re­mains low and that no-one else has fallen ill as a re­sult of the nerve agent.

But Pub­lic Health Eng­land has ad­vised peo­ple not to pick up any strange items in­clud­ing sy­ringes, nee­dles, cos­met­ics or sim­i­lar ob­jects made from metal, plas­tic or glass.

The news came af­ter As­sis­tant Com­mis­sioner Basu told a packed pub­lic meet­ing in Ames­bury on Tues­day that de­tec­tives had no idea how the nerve agent was stored or where it was.

He also ad­mit­ted in­ves­ti­ga­tors were look­ing for ‘a nee­dle in a haystack’ as they tried to find the source of the nerve agent which could last for up to 50 years if stored in a sealed con­tainer.

Sergei and Yu­lia Skri­pal were hos­pi­talised af­ter be­ing found un­con­scious on a pub­lic bench in Sal­is­bury in March.

They were both ini­tially said to have been in a crit­i­cal con­di­tion; how­ever, they have since left hospi­tal.

Yu­lia was dis­charged in April, and her fa­ther was then re­leased the fol­low­ing month.

The Krem­lin has firmly de­nied any role in their poi­son­ing.

The nerve agent could last 50 years

Killed: Vic­tim Dawn Sturgess died due to agent

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