Charlie Rowley is a survivor of the Salisbury Poisonings, which took place nearly 4 years ago (March 2018). But the same can't be said for his girlfriend, Dawn Sturgess, who sadly died when she was accidentally exposed to the deadly nerve agent.
In an exclusive interview with OK!, Charlie has recalled his harrowing story that ended with his girlfriend of 18 months losing her life.
The pair met when Dawn had been staying in a supported housing scheme in Amesbury, Wiltshire, for people who were homeless. She was a mum-of-three, rebuilding her life and Charlie was in a similar situation.
Just before the tragic incident, he recalled searching through charity shops for bits and pieces to fill his new flat when he came across a perfume box, which was ‘sealed in plastic’ and ‘expensive-looking’.
On the morning of 30 June, he gave the box to Dawn as an intended surprise gift.
Charlie said: “Dawn happily sprayed it on her wrists and rubbed them together. I’d got spray on my hand so I went to wash it off.”
But this is when things took a turn, as he recalled: "When I came back from the bathroom, Dawn was in a bad way, staring at nothing and foaming at the mouth.
"'Dawn!' I shook her. No response. I rang for help – and after that it’s a blur."
Tragically, Charlie had accidentally gifted his girlfriend a Novichok perfume bottle containing the deadly nerve agent that had been used to poison a former Russian military officer and double agent for the British intelligence agencies, something police hadn’t managed to find in the three months since the original attack.
He continued: “My friend Sam came while the ambulance was outside my house and saw Dawn being stretchered out while I was in bits, an emotional, crying wreck.
“Then I started acting weirdly paranoid and began attacking Sam. I had him by the neck, trying to strangle him. I thought he was trying to kill me, and that he’d done the same to Dawn.
“Apparently, I was frothing at the mouth and sweating, my eyes were glazed, red and milky coloured.
“I started rocking backwards and forwards and muttering some weird language, like something out of a zombie film. Sam rang 999 – I would be dead if he hadn’t.”
Charlie was rushed to the same hospital as Dawn, where she sadly passed away the same day.
Wiltshire Police declared a major incident as the events unfolded, before finally confirming the perfume was, indeed, a Novichok nerve agent.
Charlie was in hospital for three weeks on a ventilator; nerve damage meant he couldn’t see properly, and he sustained problems with his heart and lungs.
He continued in his recollection: “Because of contamination, the builders had to demolish my flat. Dawn’s dad came with me to the site, which was unbelievably painful. I’d lost absolutely everything.
“In April 2019, my brother Matthew and I were invited to see the Russian ambassador in London...I asked the ambassador if his country had killed my girlfriend. He said, ‘No’.
“I have since learned that the perfume bottle sat in my flat could have wiped out thousands of people with the amount of nerve agent it contained.”
Following the incident, Charlie moved to Wiltshire in a bid to be closer to his brother, as he explained: “I don’t feel comfortable outside home.
“Healthwise, my balance is totally off and I get double vision, so crossing the road can feel dangerous. I used to work as a builder, climbing ladders and carrying heavy things, but now I’d be a hazard.”
Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal, were the original targets of the nerve agent poisoning on 4 March 2018 by Russian nationals.
They both spent several weeks in hospital in critical condition, before being discharged. A police officer, Nick Bailey, was also taken into intensive care after attending the incident, and was later discharged
Featured Image Credit: Alamy
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