Pollen on bottle which contained Novichok that killed mother ‘could prove it was used by Russian agents in attack on former double agent and his daughter’
- Police confirm the bottle will be analysed at Porton Down chemical weapons research complex
- Leading chemist says surface will have telltale dust, pollen and fibre particles
- Clues could help prove government’s accusation it was used by Kremlin agents
A bottle which contained the Novichok nerve agent that killed Dawn Sturgess is being scoured by police for forensic clues to the identity of her killer.
The container was found by police in the house outside Salisbury of Sturgess’s boyfriend Charlie Rowley, who is in hospital recovering from the poisoning.
Leading chemist Professor Andrea Sella said the surface of what police describe as a ‘small bottle’ will have picked up telltale dust, pollen and fibre particles capable of revealing how it arrived in Britain and helping police to find where the couple may have picked it up.
Unwitting victims: Dawn Sturgess and her boyfriend Charlie Rowley
The clues could help prove the government’s accusation that it was used by Kremlin agents to attack former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March this year.
Miss Sturgess, 44, died last Sunday after she and Mr Rowley handled the bottle in Salisbury, picking up traces of the poison.
Miss Sturgess, 44, died last Sunday after she and Mr Rowley handled the bottle in Salisbury, picking up traces of the poison
Mr Rowley, a 45-year-old registered heroin addict, is in a serious but stable condition in hospital.
The bottle was recovered from his home in Amesbury last week.
One source working alongside the police has told The Mail on Sunday the couple almost certainly found it in Queen Elizabeth Gardens – a popular tourist destination with views of Salisbury Cathedral.
The gardens are a five-minute walk from a bench in the Maltings shopping centre where the Skripals collapsed four months ago.
The 65-acre park is the city’s only cordoned-off public area linked to the murder inquiry, although road barriers remain in place outside Miss Sturgess’s flat.
It is thought an area of thick bushes frequented by drug users, alcoholics and the homeless will be a key area for investigators.
Yesterday Mr Sella, professor of inorganic chemistry at University College London, said the bottle’s discovery was ‘amazing’.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘What they have got is, apparently, the original source of the second poisoning…
‘Something like a bottle will pick up flecks of dust, flecks of fibre, pollen, that kind of thing.
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‘There might be some real geographical information to be had from this and so, for the forensic scientist, this is just amazing. It’s an Aladdin’s Cave.’
A man who works in a tourism business backing on to Queen Elizabeth Gardens has told this newspaper he regularly saw ‘homeless people and drug addicts’ in that part of the park.
‘They go in there to shoot up,’ he said.
Police outside of the John Baker House where Dawn Sturgess, 44 lived
‘It’s fairly discreet and they don’t trouble anyone else.
‘If a bottle was discarded around there, you can easily imagine someone picking it up thinking it was drug paraphernalia or even that it contained drugs.’
Police have confirmed the bottle will be analysed at the Porton Down chemical weapons research complex just outside Salisbury.
View of barriers placed near the John Baker House, during the official investigation
But they have refused to comment on local speculation that Tuesday’s post-mortem examination on Miss Sturgess will also be conducted there as a precaution.
An inquest into her death will be opened in Salisbury next Thursday.
The Novichok attack has so far resulted in one death and four casualties. The Skripals are recovering at a secret location, while the police officer affected following the attack on them, Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey, remains on sick leave and has moved with his family to a temporary home.
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