Officers find bottle containing nerve agent
The investigation into Russia’s suspected use of novichok in Britain intensified after police found a bottle containing the military-grade nerve agent in a Wiltshire home where a British couple were poisoned by it.
Counter-terrorism officers in protective suits found the container – believed to have contaminated Charles Rowley, 45, and killed Dawn Sturgess, 44 – after six days of searches at a property in Amesbury.
The Guardian understands tests show both Sturgess and Rowley handled the bottle with their right hands.
Investigations continue on several fronts. Police have been trying to discover how the bottle got there, while chemical weapons experts at Porton Down’s laboratories have been testing the substance to see if it was from the same batch of novichok used in Britain four months earlier – a finding that carries huge diplomatic implications.
Sturgess died on Sunday, nine days after she and Rowley were exposed to it. Rowley has recovered consciousness and has begun talking to detectives waiting by his bedside.
Police believe the nerve agent that contaminated the couple was discarded during the attempted assassination in March of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury. Skripal has been regarded by Vladimir Putin’s regime as a traitor for defecting.
Scientists will compare the bottle’s contents with a sample recovered from the door of the Skripals’ home. Britain believes those who tried to murder the Skripals were under the control and direction of the Russian state.
The Guardian understands that experts from the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons will be invited to Britain to check the key findings. It would be a prelude to putting new pressure on Moscow, with the March novichok attack leading to the expulsion of Russian diplomats by Britain and other countries as a show of outrage against the nation’s use of the nerve agent in a sovereign country.
Dawn Sturgess died after being poisoned by novichok