UK police discover bottle of Novichok in latest victim’s house

UK police discover bottle of Novichok in latest victim’s house

Back in March a Russian nerve agent was used in an attack on a Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia. Both the Skripal’s survived the attack, but another similar incident took place on June 30th. Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley were found unconscious in his home.

Sturgess was apparently homeless and had a history of drug and alcohol abuse. The Sun reports that police initially suspected she had succumbed to a heroin overdose, but it was later determined she had been exposed to the same variety of Novichok used against the Skripals. In the wake of Sturgess’ death, Scotland Yard launched a murder investigation and this week it located the source of the contamination in Rowley’s home:

On Wednesday, 11 July, a small bottle was recovered during searches of Charlie Rowley’s house in Amesbury. It was taken to the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down, Wiltshire, for tests.

Following those tests, scientists have now confirmed to us that the substance contained within the bottle is Novichok. Further scientific tests will be carried out to try and establish whether it is from the same batch that contaminated Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March – this remains a main line of enquiry for police.

Inquiries are under way to establish where the bottle came from and how it came to be in Charlie’s house.

Scotland Yard hasn’t determined this is the same batch of Novichok but other reports say it is the same variety. There was apparently very little left in the bottle for investigators to test. From the Guardian:

The Guardian understands tests show both Sturgess and Rowley handled the bottle with their right hands…

Sturgess, 44, died on Sunday, around nine days after she and Rowley, 45, were exposed to novichok. Police believe the nerve agent that contaminated the couple was discarded during the March attempted assassination of the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in their Salisbury home. Skripal has been regarded by Vladimir Putin’s regime as a traitor for selling state secrets and then defecting to Britain.

Scientists hope there will be enough novichok left in the bottle for them to determine whether it came from the same batch used in the Skripal attack. They will compare whatever is left in the bottle with a small sample recovered from the door of the Skripal’s home. They now have small quantities from both incidents in their possession.

If the samples are found to be from the same batch, it would mean whomever ordered and carried out the Skripal attack would be suspects in the murder investigation launched after Sturgess died in hospital.

So far no one is drawing any conclusions so I won’t either but the speculation seems reasonable. The Russian agents who poisoned the Skripals by putting Novichok on their front door had to do something with the bottle the agent came in. Rather than dispose of it, they simply threw it somewhere where it was later discovered by Sturgess, who had no idea what it had contained. Hopefully, police will find more information on where she got the bottle if Rowley continues to recover.

The UK and US response to the poisoning of the Skripals was very substantial and, fortunately, both Skripals survived. If this turns out to be the same batch, as seems likely, then the Russian agents are now responsible for the death of an innocent woman. That could lead to even greater repercussions for Russia. One thing I do think it’s safe to assume about this, based upon Russia’s recent behavior on any number of fronts, is that Russian denials aren’t worth the effort spent generating them. They will continue to deny this no matter what the facts say.