One of the two people poisoned by novichok in Salisbury is now conscious, it has emerged, as the UK’s counter terror chief admitted the nerve agent could last 50 years.
Charlie Rowley, 45, had been in a coma in intensive care ever since being rushed to hospital on Saturday June 30 but the improvement in his condition has raised hopes that he might be able to help police understand how he became ill.
At the weekend, his girlfriend Dawn Sturgess, 44, tragically died after also being poisoned.
In a statement Lorna Wilkinson, director of nursing at Salisbury District Hospital, said: “We have seen a small but significant improvement in the condition of Charlie Rowley. He is in a critical but stable condition, and is now conscious.
“While this is welcome news, clearly we are not out of the woods yet. Charlie is still very unwell and will continue to require specialist, round-the-clock care here at Salisbury District Hospital.”
The fact he is now conscious may offer the police an opportunity to find out how the pair came to be contaminated.
It is thought they may have picked up a container that had been used in the original assassination attempt on former Russian double agent, Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in March.
On Tuesday evening Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the head of UK Counter Terrorism policing, said the deadly Novichok “could last 50 years,” during a conference to a packed public meeting in Amesbury.
He admitted it could be in several containers which may never be found, as “it would be impossible to keep going forever.”
Basu said officers were working on the theory that Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley came into contact with the nerve agent in liquid form after opening a container.
A massive operation is currently underway to locate that item and make it safe and it is hoped Mr Rowley may now be able to help with that task.
Earlier Ms Sturgess’s family paid tribute to her and said they hoped Mr Rowley would pull through.
In a statement they said: “Dawn’s death has been devastating for us. Dawn will always be remembered by us as a gentle soul who was generous to a fault.
“She would do anything for anybody and those who knew Dawn would know that she would gladly give her last penny to somebody in need.
“She had the biggest of hearts and she will be dreadfully missed by both her immediate and wider family.
“Our thoughts and prayers also go out to Charlie and his family and we wish Charlie a speedy recovery.”
Meanwhile parents in Wiltshire have been warned not to allow their children to pick up items off the ground as the hunt for the source of the novichok poisoning continues.
In fresh advice, issued following the death of Ms Sturgess, the Chief Medical Officer, Dame Sally Davies, said people should be particularly wary of items that contained a liquid or gel.
She said the warning was particularly important as the school holidays were about to begin and so everyone should be extra vigilant.
More than 100 counter terrorism officers are involved in the hunt for a container thought to have been responsible for poisoning Ms Sturgess and Mr Rowley.
Despite insisting that the risk to the public was low, Dame Sally Davies advised people to avoid picking up any litter that they had not dropped themselves.
She said: “I want to emphasise to everyone in the Salisbury and Amesbury area that nobody, adult or child, should pick up any foreign object which could contain liquid or gel, in the interests of their own safety.
“This, in practice, means do not pick up containers, syringes, needles, cosmetics or similar objects, made of materials such as metal, plastic or glass.
“This is particularly important as families are starting to prepare for their children’s summer holidays and so I am asking that people are extra vigilant. “To be clear: do not pick up anything that you haven’t dropped yourself.”
Earlier there were fears that novichok could have spread to a third Wiltshire town after a car belonging to a paramedic was seized at an address in Swindon and taken away for examination.
Military personnel wearing camouflage and gas masks removed the white Audi car from outside the home of former RAF man, Keith Mills, who is believed to been one of the medical team who attended Amesbury on Saturday 30 June.
Mr Mills, is understood to have been given the all clear, but the authorities are taking no chances and are inspecting his car to make sure none of the deadly nerve agent has been transferred to the vehicle.
Neighbour, Steve Morgan, 48, said Mr Mills had treated Dawn Sturgess, who tragically died after being exposed to novichok after picking up a discarded container in Salisbury.
He said: “The car belongs to a paramedic who treated the woman who died. There was concern that clothes might have been contaminated and the car was taken to Porton Down.”
Wiltshire Police said: “We have arranged the transportation of a car from an address in Swindon this evening in relation to the ongoing incident in Amesbury.
“The public should not be alarmed by this. Those involved have the training expertise to safely remove the vehicle.”
Article Source : https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2018/07/10/novichok-victim-now-conscious-hospital/