Novichok victim discharged from British hospital

by Robin MILLARD
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Charlie Rowley was discharged from Salisbury District Hospital July 20, 2018 after being poisoned by Novichok nerve agent June 30

Novichok poisoning victim Charlie Rowley was discharged from a British hospital on Friday as police continued to piece together how the nerve agent claimed the life of his partner Dawn Sturgess.

Rowley, 45, and 44-year-old Sturgess collapsed at his house on June 30. Sturgess died on July 8 and counter-terror detectives have launched a murder probe.

"Today, Charlie Rowley was discharged from hospital," said Lorna Wilkinson, director of nursing at Salisbury District Hospital in southwest England.

"Charlie has been through an appalling experience most of us could never imagine.

"Today is a very welcome milestone in his recovery."

Ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia collapsed in Salisbury on March 4 after being exposed to Novichok.

Both have since recovered.

Britain's domestic Press Association news agency reported Thursday that police believe they have identified the suspects who carried out the attack.

"Investigators believe they have identified the suspected perpetrators of the Novichok attack through CCTV and have cross-checked this with records of people who entered the country around that time," a source with knowledge of the probe told PA.

"They (investigators) are sure they (suspects) are Russian," the source added.

- 'Powerful nerve agent' -

Government departments and the Metropolitan Police, whose counter-terrorism unit is investigating the poisoning, refused to comment on the report when contacted by AFP.

But Security Minister Ben Wallace wrote on Twitter: "I think this story belongs in the 'ill-informed and wild speculation folder'."

Britain blamed Russia for the poisoning of Skripal, a former military intelligence colonel who was jailed for betraying Russian agents to Britain's MI6 foreign intelligence service.

He left Russia for Britain in a 2010 spy swap.

Russia has strongly denied involvement in the Skripal attack, sparking a row that has led to tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions between Britain and its allies and Moscow.

Wilkinson said that while Rowley had been discharged, it was a "day tinged with sadness for everyone" as they remembered Sturgess.

"Both Dawn and Charlie had been poisoned by a powerful nerve agent," she said.

"As part of the care we gave to Charlie, and the other victims of this nerve agent, we decontaminated them. We did this both to help them get better and ensure there would be no remaining contamination."

She said the Public Health England body had advised that Rowley poses no risk to the public.

- Perfume bottle claim -

Rowley and Sturgess collapsed at his house in Amesbury, north of Salisbury.

PA said investigators believe Sturgess was exposed to at least 10 times the amount of nerve agent as the Skripals came into contact with.

Police have said it was detected in a "small bottle" at Rowley's house.

Rowley's brother Matthew told the BBC that the 45-year-old had told him the Novichok was contained in a perfume bottle.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons earlier this week said its inspectors had collected samples in the Amesbury case and were analysing them.

An inquest into the death of Sturgess opened on Thursday in Salisbury and was adjourned until a pre-inquest review on January 16, pending further investigation.

In English law, inquests are held to examine violent, unnatural or unexplained deaths. They set out to determine the place, time and type of death, but do not apportion blame.

On Wednesday, police started a search of the Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury. Certain areas were to be searched by fingertip, in a search due to last several days.

Charlie Rowley was discharged from Salisbury District Hospital July 20, 2018 after being poisoned by Novichok nerve agent June 30

A police officer stands guard outside Charlie Rowley's house in Amesbury, southern England, on July 4, 2018 after a Novichok poisoning days earlier

Factfile on the Soviet-era nerve agent Novichok.

In this undated file picture taken from the facebook page of Charles Rowley on July 9, 2018, Charles Rowley poses for a photograph in an unknown location