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British Man Says Novichok Was In Perfume Bottle He Gave Partner

Dawn Sturgess (left) and Charles Rowley

A British man poisoned with Novichok has said in interviews that he found a perfume bottle that contained the deadly nerve agent and unknowingly gave it to his girlfriend, who sprayed the liquid on her wrists and later died.

Charlie Rowley, 45, said in interviews released on July 24 that he was amazed he survived after handling the "oily" substance himself, but was still struggling with the death of his partner Dawn Sturgess, a 44-year-old mother of three.

Both fell ill in Amesbury, near the southwestern English city of Salisbury where a former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned with Novichok in March.

In an interview with ITV News television, Rowley said he could not remember where he picked up the glass perfume bottle, but said it was still in its box and plastic packaging.

When he offered it as a gift to Sturgess, "she recognized the bottle and product as a known brand" and sprayed it on her wrists.

"Within fifteen minutes Dawn said she had a headache," and she went to lie down in the bath, fully clothed.

Rowley also got some of it on his hands but washed it off. "It had an oily substance and I smelled it and it didn't smell of perfume," he said.

'Awful And Shocking'

Both of them fell ill and were hospitalized later that day, June 30.

A few days later, authorities confirmed their exposure to Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Sturgess died on July 9, but after two weeks in an induced coma Rowley was discharged from the hospital on July 20.

In an interview with The Sun newspaper, he said: "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.

"My heart goes out to Dawn's family. It's amazing that I'm alive. In a way I feel lucky I survived, but I've also lost so much."

Police are treating Sturgess' death as murder and say a link with the poisoning of Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4 is a major line of inquiry.

Britain and its allies blamed Russia for trying to kill Skripal, a former military intelligence colonel who was jailed for betraying Russian agents to Britain and released in a 2010 spy swap.

Russia has strongly denied involvement in the poisonings, which sparked a major diplomatic row.

Rowley said he was "very angry at the whole incident."

"It was very irresponsible for people to leave the poison for anybody to pick up. It could have been children," he told ITV.

With reporting by AFP and dpa
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