The British man whose girlfriend was killed by the nerve agent Novichok has said she fell ill within 15 minutes of coming into contact with the substance.
Charlie Rowley confirmed reports quoting his brother, claiming that it had been found in a container disguised as a bottle of perfume.
In an interview with ITV News, Rowley said he had found the substance in an expensive-looking box on the street and given it to his partner, Dawn Sturgess. The 44-year-old died in hospital eight days after spraying the substance on her wrists on June 30, at Rowley’s home in Amesbury, in the English county of Wiltshire.
Her death on July 8 prompted a murder investigation amid concerns of a possible link with the poisonings in Salisbury of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March.
Charlie Rowley, who also came into contact with the Novichok and was discharged from hospital last week, said he had seen Sturgess spray it on her wrists and rub her hands together. He also spilt some on his hands but washed it off.
He described it as an “oily substance” which didn’t smell of perfume. “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,” he told ITV.
Rowley said the perfume box appeared to be sealed in a cellophane wrapper when he found it. It has raised questions over the police line of inquiry that the Novichok was from the same batch that was discarded by the Skripals’ attackers.
Police have said searches are continuing at various locations in Wiltshire to identify other potential sources of contamination. People in the county have been warned not to pick up items in the street.
They still believe that the Skripals came into contact with Novichok via their front door handle which had been contaminated. The UK has blamed the Russian government for the attack on the couple, and the row led to a series of tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions.
Charlie Rowley said he thought it “scary” and “very irresponsible” that a toxic substance could be left in a public place. On the death of his partner Dawn Sturgess, he added: “I’ve lost so much. I feel very sad about what happened to her; it’s awful and shocking. I was still on medication when they told me she passed away. I don’t think I will ever be able to get over it.”