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Novichok victim poisoned in 15 minutes, partner says

Dawn Sturgess died on July 8 after ‘spraying the nerve agent on to herself believing it was perfume’.

Novichok victim Charlie Rowley has said the deadly nerve agent took just 15 minutes to poison his partner after she sprayed the “oily” substance on to her wrists believing it was perfume.

Mr Rowley, 45, believes he may have had the bottle in his home for a couple of days before giving it to 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess as a present.

He said the glass bottle and plastic dispenser were in a cardboard box with plastic moulding, and that Ms Sturgess had recognised the brand.

She died on July 8 after the pair fell ill on June 30 having been exposed to Novichok contained in a bottle later found in Mr Rowley’s home in Amesbury, Wiltshire.

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Dawn Sturgess died after being exposed to nerve agent Novichok (Met Police/PA)

He told ITV News: “I do have a memory of her spraying it on her wrists and rubbing them together.

“I guess that’s how she applied it and became ill. I guess how I got in contact with it is when I put the spray part to the bottle… I ended tipping some on my hands, but I washed it off under the tap.

“It had an oily substance and I smelled it and it didn’t smell of perfume. It felt oily. I washed it off and I didn’t think anything of it. It all happened so quick.

“Within 15 minutes Dawn said she had a headache. She asked me if I had any headache tablets. In that time she said she felt peculiar and needed to lie down in the bath. I went into the bathroom and found her in the bath, fully clothed, in a very ill state.”

Mr Rowley said he could not remember where he found the perfume box but believed it “looked expensive”.

“Unfortunately it turned out to be… to be a bad find,” he told the broadcaster.

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Yulia Skripal was also contaminated (Dylan Martinez/PA)

He described Ms Sturgess as a “lovely lady” and a “wonderful woman”, and said she had planned to move to Amesbury from John Baker House, her sheltered accommodation in Salisbury, within two weeks.

Mr Rowley also said he still feels to blame for what happened to her but criticised the “irresponsible people” who left the poison for anybody to pick up.

“It was just so unfortunate. I’m very angry at the whole incident,” he added.

Officials refused to be drawn on Mr Rowley’s comments when they were quizzed during a public meeting held in Salisbury City Hall on Tuesday evening.

Asked if there was likely to be any more Novichok in the Salisbury area, Wiltshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Paul Mills said: “What we can’t tell and probably will never be able to tell is actually is there anything else out there, so all we can do is be intelligence-led and go to the locations where we know they have actually been and be meticulous with the searching.”

He explained that a fingertip search at Salisbury’s Queen Elizabeth Gardens – attended by Mr Rowley and Ms Sturgess the day before they fell ill – was being carried out as a precaution.

“We don’t have any specific information or intelligence that actually says there’s a specific risk in that location,” he added.

The interview comes as police announced the cordon at Ms Sturgess’s home would be lifted after investigators found no contamination risk at the building.

Mr Rowley and Ms Sturgess were victims of the second nerve agent incident in four months following the case of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia.

They were found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury in March.

Police are believed to have identified the suspected perpetrators of the Novichok attack on Russian former spy Mr Skripal and his daughter.

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