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Novichok in perfume bottle gifted to victim

July 25, 2018

The nerve agent that poisoned two people in Amesbury was packed in a sealed, brand-name perfume bottle, survivor Charlie Rowley told British media. He says he can't remember where he found the container.

Police on the scene of poisoning outside Charlie Rowley's home
Image: picture-alliance/empics/S. Parsons

Amesbury poisoning survivor Charlie Rowley gave the bottle which contained Novichok nerve agent to his girlfriend Dawn Sturgess as a gift, believing it to be perfume, according to interviews he gave to the UK's ITV and the mass-circulation paper The Sun.

Rowley said he had picked up the bottle, which "looked expensive" and was labeled as perfume, before giving it to his partner. However, he said he was unable to remember where he had found the poison, telling The Sun it was "still a blur."

Talking to ITV, he said the bottle was inside a cellophane-wrapped sealed box and appeared to be unused. Rowley himself came into contact with the poisonous chemical while mounting a pump dispenser inside it and some of content spilled on his hands.

"It had an oily substance and I smelt it and it didn't smell of perfume," he told the TV channel. "It felt oily, so I washed it off really quick, but I didn't think anything of it."

Symptoms started with a headache

When he offered the bottle to Sturgess, whom he had been dating for nearly two years, the 44-year-old woman "recognized the bottle and product as a known brand" and sprayed it on her wrists.

"Within 15 minutes, I believe Dawn said she felt she had a headache and asked me if I had any headache tablets," Rowley said. "I had a look around the flat, and within that time she said she felt peculiar and needed to lie down in the bath, which at the time I thought was a bit strange."

Karte Salisbury EN

Read more: Police confirms Wiltshire poisoning was Novichok nerve agent

"I went into the bathroom and found her in the bath, fully clothed, in a very ill state," he added.

Rowley says he doesn't remember falling ill himself, but said his friend told him he was stumbling and "foaming" at the mouth.

Rescuers found both of them unconscious on the day of the incident, June 30th, and transported them to the same Salisbury hospital where Sergei and Yulia Skripal had been treated for an earlier case on Novichok poisoning.

Read more: Kremlin says linking Russia with new Novichok poisoning is 'absurd'

Harder to 'think and concentrate'

Doctors put Rowley in an artificial coma for two weeks. When he came to, he found out Sturgess passed away on July 8th.

"I was still on medication when they told me she passed away," he told the Sun. "I don't think I will ever be able to get over it."

Read more: Novichok nerve agent victim regains consciousness

When it comes to consequences to his own health, the 45-year-old said it was much harder "to think and concentrate" after the poisoning.

Novichok was developed in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. London claims Russia was behind the attack on ex-double agent Skripal in March. Moscow denies involvement.

dj/aw (AFP, AP, dpa)