Novichok victim ‘ill within 15 minutes’ after contact with nerve agent disguised as perfume, says Charlie Rowley

'I do have a memory of her spraying it on her wrists'

Harry Cockburn
Tuesday 24 July 2018 21:09 BST
Novichok poisoning: Charlie Rowley reveals perfume gift he gave to partner contained deadly poison

The Wiltshire woman who was killed after handling a deadly Soviet-era nerve agent contained in a perfume bottle was ill “within 15 minutes” of handling the substance, her partner Charlie Rowley has said.

Mr Rowley, who was also seriously affected by the Novichok poison, said 44-year-old Dawn Sturgess had sprayed the “oily” substance onto her wrists after he had given her the bottle as a present.

He told ITV News: “Within 15 minutes, I believe Dawn said she felt she had a headache and asked me if I had any headache tablets. 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.

“I went into the bathroom and found her in the bath, fully clothed, in a very ill state.”

Ms Sturgess died on 8 July after the pair were found having collapsed at Mr Rowley’s home on 30 June.

Mr Rowley said he could not remember where he found the perfume box, but said the glass bottle and plastic dispenser were contained in a cardboard box and that his partner had recognised the brand.

He said: “I do have a memory of her spraying it on her wrists and rubbing them together.

“I guess that's how she applied it and became ill. I guess how I got in contact with it is when I put the spray part to the bottle... I ended tipping some on my hands, but I washed it off under the tap.

“Unfortunately it turned out to be... to be a bad find,” he told the broadcaster.

He described Ms Sturgess a "loving, caring mother".

Dawn Sturgess, a mother-of-three from Durrington, died after being exposed to novichok
Dawn Sturgess, a mother-of-three from Durrington, died after being exposed to novichok (Facebook)

“She had so much time for her daughter and her two boys,” he said, and added that he felt he was to blame for what happened to her.

But he also criticised the “irresponsible people” who left the nerve agent in a public place.

“It was just so unfortunate. I'm very angry at the whole incident,” he added.

Mr Rowley woke up in hospital to learn his partner had died, and as a result of being unconscious for weeks following the incident, the muscles in his legs required significant strengthening.

Asked if he felt lucky to be alive, he said: “They say I'm lucky but I don't feel lucky...I've lost my partner.”

The incident followed the March attack in nearby Salisbury on Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, with the same substance.

Police are believed to have identified the suspected perpetrators of the novichok attack on Russian former spy Mr Skripal and his daughter.

Novichok was produced by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Britain has blamed Russia for poisoning the spy and his daughter, who both recovered, as well as accidently poisoning Mr Rowley and Ms Sturgess.

Russia has denied any involvement.

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