Of­fi­cers find bot­tle con­tain­ing nerve agent

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Vikram Dodd Steven Mor­ris

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.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: MET PO­LICE/PA

Dawn Sturgess died af­ter be­ing poi­soned by novi­chok

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