Charles Rowley is no longer in a critical condition.
Charles Rowley is no longer in a critical condition.

Novichok victim awake, talking

BRITISH police say they have spoken briefly to the surviving victim of a nerve-agent poisoning in southwest England, as they try to uncover how he and his girlfriend were exposed to the deadly toxin.

The Metropolitan Police force said officers had spoken to Charlie Rowley, "and will be looking to further speak with him in the coming days."

The hospital, where Mr Rowley is being treated, said his condition has improved and he is no longer critical.

Lorna Wilkinson, the hospital's director of nursing, said "his condition is now serious, but stable."

Mr Rowley, 45, and Dawn Sturgess, 44, collapsed on June 30 in the town of Amesbury.

Police say they handled a container contaminated with Novichok, the same nerve agent used to poison ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia 13 kilometres away in the city of Salisbury in March.

Ms Sturgess died on Sunday.

Assistant Police Commissioner Neil Basu, Britain's top counter-terrorism officer, said Novichok could remain active for 50 years if kept in a sealed container.

He said he could not guarantee there are no further traces of the lethal poison in the area.

"I would love to be able to say that we have identified and caught the people responsible and how we are certain there are no traces of nerve agent left anywhere in Wiltshire.

"But the brutal reality is that I cannot offer you any reassurance or guarantee at this time."

Mr Basu said there is so far no forensic proof that the Novichok that poisoned Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley comes from the same batch used in March against the Skripals - but that any other explanation is extremely unlikely.

 

Police officers on duty in Salisbury, England, as the investigation into the death of Dawn Sturgess, continues.
Police officers on duty in Salisbury, England, as the investigation into the death of Dawn Sturgess, continues.

 

"This is a very rare substance banned by the international community and for there to be two separate, distinct incidents in one small English county is implausible, to say the least," he said.

The nerve agent was produced in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Britain has accused the Russian state of the attack on the Skripals, a charge denied by the Kremlin.

Mr Basu said it is possible Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley had the container in their possession for some time before opening it with disastrous results.


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