UK police find Novichok in bottle at home of one victim

LONDON • British police have said they found a "small bottle" containing the Soviet-made nerve agent Novichok in the home of one of two Britons who fell ill from the substance last month.

"On July 11, a small bottle was recovered during searches of Charlie Rowley's house in Amesbury," police said in a statement last Friday, four months after a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned with the same substance.

"Scientists have now confirmed to us that the substance contained within the bottle is Novichok," the statement said, adding that the test were carried out at the Porton Down defence laboratory which first identified the substance.

Mr Rowley, 45, and his partner Ms Dawn Sturgess, 44, collapsed at his house within hours of each other on June 30.

Ms Sturgess died last Sunday, while Mr Rowley has regained consciousness. Police said they had been able to speak to him briefly.

The incident came after former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, who have both since recovered, collapsed on a bench on March 4 in the nearby city of Salisbury, south-west England, sparking an international diplomatic crisis after Britain blamed Russia for the attack.

Moscow has strongly denied any involvement in the poisoning.

The police said further tests were being done to establish whether the substance that affected Mr Rowley and Ms Sturgess was from the same batch as that used against the Skripals.

"Inquiries are under way to establish where the bottle came from and how it came to be in Charlie's house," police said.

Counter-terrorism police said yesterday they had recovered over 400 exhibits, samples and items. They said "a significant number are potentially contaminated" and have been submitted to laboratories for analysis.

Cordons would remain in place to ensure public safety, said Mr Neil Basu, head of the counter-terrorism police force.

The Foreign Office on Friday said it had invited independent technical experts from the international chemical weapons watchdog to Britain next week "to independently confirm the identity of the nerve agent".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 15, 2018, with the headline 'UK police find Novichok in bottle at home of one victim'. Print Edition | Subscribe