In Memory of Dawn Sturgess by Rob Slane

12 July 2019 — Off Guardian – The Blogmire

I said at the beginning of the year that I wanted to move on from writing on this case, unless significant developments arose. That is still my intention, and I very much hope that this will be my last piece on it.

But I couldn’t let the anniversary of the Amesbury case, in which Dawn Sturgess lost her life, pass without comment. My thanks to Duncan, Liane, and Paul especially, and many other commenters for their observations which have helped in the writing of this. It’s a long read. Here goes…

As regular readers will have noted, I have tended to limit my posts on the “Novichok” incidents to the Salisbury case, leaving Amesbury well alone. The reason for this is simply that although the two incidents are clearly connected, I have felt that without properly understanding what went on in Salisbury, trying to understand what went on in Amesbury is something of a fool’s errand. There are enough oddities and rabbit trails in incident #1 to fill a sizeable volume, without even venturing to try to explain incident #2.

What do you mean we don’t understand what happened in the Salisbury case?” says the person who has accepted the authorities’ version.

“It’s very simple. Two (or possibly three) officers of the GU, traveling on false passports, under aliases, were sent by the Russian Government to assassinate Sergei Skripal, a man regarded as a traitor by the Kremlin, in order to send a message to warn others who may be involved in similar activities that there is no place where they can be safe. Not hard, is it?”

Well it all sounds very simple, until you dig into the details, that is. There you find a host of issues that simply don’t add up, and nor can they be made to.

I won’t labour these points, having covered them extensively before (e.g. here and here), but I will just point out the most fundamental flaw once again.

And when I say fundamental flaw, I am talking about fundamental as in, “in the realm of the scientifically impossible.” It is this:

The location of the poisoning is said to have been at the door handle of Mr Skripal’s house. It is there that — allegedly — the highest traces of nerve agent were found. When were these traces found? Nearly three weeks later.

Did anyone go into the house using that very same door handle in the intervening time? Yes, they did.
Were they wearing protected clothing? No, they weren’t, as the BBC correspondent, Karen Gardner testified in her report from outside the house, two days after the alleged poisoning, and in a subsequent report a year later.

Had the chemical broken down due to the weather conditions and lost its potency? Not according to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) which stated that the toxic chemical they found during their visit to Salisbury between 19th and 22nd March was of “high purity, persistent and resistant to weather conditions” (I’ll come back to the statements of the OPCW in a moment, as they are extremely important).

In other words, amongst all the other absurdities that you are required to believe, if you are to accept what the authorities have told you, including the amazing no dead ducks or sick kids part, you must believe the following:

That numerous people, without any protective clothing at all, came into contact with the world’s deadliest nerve agent, which was in a state of high purity, and yet not a single one of them became contaminated or so much as fell ill.

Of course, you are welcome to believe that if it you like, but I’ll take a pass on it thanks very much, since to believe such a thing involves quite mind-numbing levels of cognitive dissonance.

As I say, I haven’t given a whole lot of attention to the Amesbury case, as the Salisbury case clearly holds the key to it in some way, and yet what really happened in that first case remains a mystery to most of us.

Yet because the anniversary of the second case is now upon us, I feel it important to say something about it, not least because both Charlie Rowley and the family of Dawn Sturgess appear to have been kept in the dark over what happened, and are extremely upset over the lack of answers to their questions.

In addition, Dawn’s inquest keeps being pushed back, and the suspicion that her family might never get the answers and the closure they are looking for seems to grow. This grieves me greatly, and although I am unable to provide any answers myself, I do hope to at least ask some of the questions that ought to be being asked about what really happened.

I said above that the Salisbury and Amesbury cases are clearly connected. What I mean by this is as follows:

  1. Both incidents are said to have involved a nerve agent known as “Novichok” (although let me remind readers that the OPCW have never named the substance, nor have they ever confirmed in their  public summaries that it was even a nerve agent).
  2. The incidents occurred within a few miles of each other and within four months of one another.
  3. The two people affected — Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley — were said to have visited Salisbury the day prior to falling ill.

Yet the single most startling thing to note about the case is that the Metropolitan Police have so far completely failed in their attempts to properly link the two cases. I can’t emphasise enough how extraordinary this is. Given that “Novichok” attacks are not exactly ten a penny, and with these general connections being very clear, it ought to be reasonably simple to connect them in detail. Yet this hasn’t been done. Why not? Because it can’t be done — at least it can’t if the starting point for your attempts to connect the two is to begin with the official explanation given in the Salisbury case. Other explanations may have more success; just not the one given by the authorities. How so?

Well, having stated the case that the two accused men dosed the handle of Mr Skripal’s front door, it would be relatively straightforward to then posit a case that they put the bottle back in a box, cast it away under a bush in a park, or some similar location, where it was subsequently picked up by Charlie Rowley a few months later. And in fact this is precisely what some reports of what happened suggested.

For instance, this appeared in The Mirror on 8th July:

“Friends think Charlie, 45, discovered a stash of vials or syringes while ‘scavenging’ through bushes in a local park on Friday evening.”

This very strange piece then appeared in The Telegraph on 15th July, four days after Charlie Rowley woke from a coma:

“One theory is that Mr Rowley, 45, and Ms Sturgess, 44, had been contaminated when they picked up the container after finding it hidden under a bush in a park in the centre of Salisbury on the afternoon of Friday 30 June.”

Why strange? Because it was published at 8:49pm that day, and was a rewrite of an article that had appeared less than two hours before (7:01pm), in which the following was stated:

“Initially it was thought Mr Rowley, 45, and Ms Sturgess, 44, had been contaminated when they picked up the container after finding it hidden under a bush in a park in the centre of Salisbury on the afternoon of Friday 30 June. But experts now believe that is unlikely given the length of time it took the couple to fall ill, with Ms Sturgess not taken to hospital until the following morning and Mr Rowley admitted more than eight hours later.”

In other words, the 7:01pm piece had ruled out finding the bottle in the park, but the 8:49pm piece ruled it back in. Someone at least was struggling to get the story straight!

The “finding the bottle in the park” theory would have been job done. The two cases connected in the details as well as in theory, and the two accused could have been charged with crimes against Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, as well as those relating to the Salisbury case.

However, just when such a connection seemed likely, along came Charlie Rowley himself to put two enormous spanners in the works — spanners that make it literally impossible to properly connect the two cases using the official story as the starting point.

The first spanner in the works was Charlie’s inability to recall where he found the box containing the bottle that he and Dawn were apparently poisoned with. Initially his brother, Matthew, was reported on 17th July as saying that Charlie told him he found it in a park, which fitted with the “under a bush” theory:

“Mr Rowley’s brother Matthew said yesterday the couple last month picked up a perfume bottle in a park containing the nerve agent and sprayed it on themselves.”

However, the spanner came in an interview that Charlie himself gave to ITV on 24th July. Although he was unable to pinpoint the location, and even which town, one thing he was quite clear on was that he did not find it in the park where he and Dawn were on the Friday 29th June — Queen Elizabeth Gardens — which was where the previous reports had assumed he had found it:

Interviewer: You’re pretty sure when you were on the park on Friday afternoon that you didn’t find [the bottle] there?’

Charlie Rowley:I’m pretty sure. No. I’m 100% sure it wasn’t in the park.”

In a subsequent interview with ITV, in which he was filmed being taken around Salisbury, he was again adamant that he had not found it in the park, despite the fact that police were searching there (and continued to search, without protective clothing, for another month).

Now I understand that Charlie’s mind has been battered by drink and drugs over the years, and so it is not wholly surprising that he was unable to remember exactly where he found it. But the curious thing is that he is quite certain where he didn’t find it. How could he be so certain of this if he can’t remember where he found it?

This is pure speculation on my part, but I would say that this behaviour suggests another possibility entirely: that he didn’t actually find the bottle at all — rather it was planted on him, either in his jacket pocket, or at his house. But as I say, pure speculation — take it or leave it as you see fit.

Furthermore, I think we can safely rule out the charity bins behind the back of the cloisters which were subsequently mooted as a possible location after the bush and park theory died the death.

Firstly, there is apparently no CCTV evidence of him bin diving there around that time (and I understand this is an area that is well covered). Secondly, there is apparently no CCTV evidence of the two accused men having gone there to dump a box. But thirdly, and most importantly, there is simply no way that a box would have remained in one of these bins, which are emptied regularly, for nearly four months.

But the second, and by far the bigger spanner Charlie placed in the works in terms of connecting the two cases in the detail, is his description of the box as being wrapped in plastic, which he had to cut open. In fact, he personally told one commentator on this blog that it was wrapped in thick plastic, like the wrapping on a packet of bacon. This observation was only recently confirmed in the media, with an article in The Guardian describing the box as being sealed in “hard plastic”.

The ramifications of this fact are huge. In one seemingly innocuous sentence, Charlie completely and utterly put paid to any attempts to link the bottle allegedly used in incident #1 with that apparently used in incident #2. It is simply not possible that they are the same bottle. The only way of reconciling the two cases would be to suggest that the two accused men dumped a second bottle of toxic chemical, inside a box which was itself wrapped in thick plastic, and that it was this that Charlie Rowley found. And as for the bottle that they apparently used in the Salisbury case, who knows? According to this scenario, they either took it back with them to Moscow (kinda dangerous, don’t you think?), or dumped that somewhere in Salisbury, where it presumably still is.

I don’t have to tell you that this scenario is insane, do I? Not only is it insane, but it would also completely undermine the accusations made against the men in the first place, which was that they came to Britain to target one person — Sergei Skripal — for assassination. The idea that they would have dumped another, unused and unopened bottle of “Novichok” somewhere in Salisbury is for the fairies. And I am at least thankful to see that even the British authorities have not attempted to do join the fairies on this. Yet.

Nevertheless, it does leave them with a huge problem. A square that cannot be circled; a pit without a bottom; a riddle without an answer. If the Amesbury case is somehow connected to the Salisbury case — which it clearly is on the surface — then if the details of the Amesbury case cannot be reconciled with the official narrative of the Salisbury case — which they can’t — then the logical deduction is that the official narrative must be wrong. Of course, we know that anyway, given the impossible door handle scenario, but the impossibility of reconciling the Amesbury case with it provides further confirmation.

But there is something even more fundamental to all this which raises even bigger questions about both incidents, and the explanations given by officials. For this we must turn back to the OPCW.

Let me ask you a question: You have two bottles — Bottle A and Bottle B — each containing the same chemical and each with an atomiser. You spray Bottle A onto a surface outdoors, where the chemical is exposed to the air.

Nearly three weeks later, after being exposed to sunlight, rain, and snow, and even being touched by unprotected human hands (ahem!), you invite a laboratory to take samples of the chemical from that exposed surface.

You then invite them back three weeks later to take a sample of chemical B, but this time they take their sample directly from the bottle itself.

So just to recap: in the case of Chemical A, it has been exposed to the environment for three weeks. In the case of Chemical B, it has remained in the bottle with the atomiser attached for six weeks.

Which substance would you expect to register the highest purity and the least impurities? I would expect this to be Chemical B, because even though the sample was taken after a longer duration, the amount of air mixing with it would be negligible. On the other hand, since Chemical A has been constantly exposed to the air for three weeks, one would assume that this would lead to it having accumulated a far greater number of impurities.

Yet in the Salisbury and Amesbury cases, according to the OPCW it is entirely the other way around. Here’s what they said in the Salisbury case:

“The TAV team notes that the toxic chemical was of high purity. The latter is concluded from the almost complete absence of impurities.”

In other words, it was just about as pure as it gets. Then in a statement of clarification on 4th May, they said this:

“The quantity should probably be characterised in milligrams. However, the analysis of samples collected by the OPCW Technical Assistance Visit team concluded that the chemical substance found was of high purity, persistent and resistant to weather conditions.”

So not only almost totally pure, but able to remain so for a very long time, since it is persistent and weather resistant.

Turning to Amesbury, we find this:

The results of the analysis of this environmental sample conducted by OPCW Designated Laboratories show that the sample consists of the toxic chemical at a concentration of 97-98%. The sample is therefore considered a neat agent of high purity. The OPCW Designated Laboratories also identified a number of impurities constituting the remaining 2-3% of the sample.

Due to the unknown storage conditions of the small bottle found in the house of Mr Rowley and the fact that the environmental samples analysed in relation to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Mr Nicholas Bailey were exposed to the environment and moisture, the impurity profiles of the samples available to the OPCW do not make it possible to draw conclusions as to whether the samples are from the same synthesis batch.”

This is extraordinarily odd.

Substance Salisbury was hanging around in the open air for nearly three weeks before the OPCW came to town, all the time being exposed to the environment. And yet it was said to have had an almost complete absence of impurities.

Yet Substance Amesbury, which was inside a bottle that had been sealed until 30th June, and remained in the bottle with an atomiser, is noted as having impurities.

The OPCW even seem to go out of their way to draw attention to this oddity in the Amesbury report, where they point back to Substance Salisbury saying, “the environmental samples analysed in relation to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Mr Nicholas Bailey were exposed to the environment and moisture.” Hmm!

It’s all completely upside down, inside out and back to front. If either of the two samples should have contained impurities, it is Substance Salisbury; if either of the samples should have contained no impurities, it is Substance Amesbury, which the OPCW say they sampled from the bottle. And yet it’s the other way around.

How can these things be reconciled? It seems to me that there are three hypothetical possibilities.

The first is the official narrative, which would have you believe the following scenario: that the accused men brought two bottles containing the same type of toxic chemical into Britain. One was daubed/sprayed/smeared (take your pick) on Mr Skripal’s door handle in order to kill him; the other was inside a fake Nina Ricci box, wrapped in thick “bacon wrapper” plastic, which the accused men inexplicably decided to dump somewhere, even though doing so served absolutely no purpose in their apparent attempt to kill Mr Skripal.

Both substances had been synthesised in a Russian military/chemical facility, yet whilst the first was done so without acquiring any impurities, and indeed remained so even after three weeks of being exposed to the outside air, the second either gained impurities during synthesis, or somehow gained them despite being inside a bottle with only an atomiser to let the air in.

This hypothetical possibility doesn’t really need to be refuted; it refutes itself. It’s insane. It’s completely bonkers. It’s risible. It’s a joke. Which is why even the authorities – who have claimed that the world’s deadliest nerve agent can be dealt with using baby wipes — even they can’t bring themselves to go down this road.

They might as well claim that the second box was given to Charlie by aliens!

The second hypothetical possibility is that the two chemicals are not the same type. If Substance Salisbury is so persistent and weather resistant that three weeks out in the sun, the rain and the snow do not lead to degradation, then the fact that Substance Amesbury, after six weeks in a bottle with just an atomiser has impurities in it, is highly suggestive that they are not the same type of chemical.

However, we can rule this explanation out because the OPCW specifically stated in their Amesbury report that it was indeed the same chemical:

The toxic chemical compound, which displays the toxic properties of a nerve agent, is the same toxic chemical that was found in the biomedical and environmental samples relating to the poisoning of Sergei and Yulia Skripal and Mr Nicholas Bailey on 4 March 2018 in Salisbury (S/1612/2018, dated 12 April 2018).”

(Note, by the way, their description of the substance not as a “nerve agent”, but as “displaying the toxic properties of a nerve agent”).

There is then a third hypothetical possibility. That there was only one substance. That whatever it was contained no impurities. That the samples the OPCW took of this substance had not been exposed to the air for three weeks, but rather had been daubed/sprayed/smeared (take your pick) just prior to their arrival on the scene.

That this same substance was then placed in a fake Nina Ricci box, which was then wrapped in plastic to ensure no leakages. That it was then found by/planted on Charlie Rowley. That by the time the OPCW took samples from the bottle, almost five months had passed and it had acquired some impurities (the 2-3% mentioned in the Amesbury report).

There are no doubt other scenarios that people can think of, and I realise that this third one I have suggested is quite unnerving. Part of me hopes that it is not the case, and that another better explanation exists.

However, there are a couple of other things that I would add that, in my view, strengthen this scenario as being at least a possibility (and certainly more credible than the first two hypotheticals).

The first is that whereas the OPCW are very specific about where they took their environmental sample in the Amesbury case (“…the team collected a sample of the contents of a small bottle that the police seized as a suspect item from the house of Charles Rowley in Amesbury”), they are astonishingly vague about where they took samples in Salisbury. Here is what they say:

The team was able to conduct on-site sampling of environmental samples under full chain of custody at sites identified as possible hot-spots of residual contamination.”

Which sites? Was Mr Skripal’s house, apparently the hottest of hot-spots, one of them? I don’t believe it was. I contacted the OPCW to point out that their usual practice would be to identify the precise locations that they took their samples, but that they had not done so in the Salisbury case. Could they be more specific.

They very kindly (heavy sarc) referred me to their summary document, which is the document I have just quoted above, which doesn’t mention the locations, and which prompted me to contact them! And so I tried again, this time stating that if they were unwilling to confirm something so simple as that they took samples from the door handle at Christie Miller Road, I would assume that they didn’t. They didn’t respond, so I assume they didn’t.

Actually, this assumption has much more basis in it than their refusal to engage a nobody like me. In his letter to the NATO Secretary General on 13th April 2018, Sir Mark Sedwill confirmed that the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down had:

…established that the highest concentrations of nerve agent were found on the handle of Mr Skripal’s front door.”

However, although he mentions the OPCW numerous times, tellingly he never confirms that they backed up DSTL on this point. And so my assumption, until the OPCW states otherwise, is that they never sampled at the door.

The point is this: if the OPCW are unable or unwilling to state the precise location of their samples in Salisbury, this cannot give anyone any confidence that they really did find a nerve agent that had been sitting in high purity state for nearly three weeks. Unprotected people were swanning around Zizzis and The Mill for hours after the incident.

Did the OPCW find their “high purity” toxic chemical in those places? In which case, why did none of the people in those places die? This vagueness simply adds to the suspicions that the story we are told is just not true and that some sort of other shenanigans were going on.

And the second point to make is the fact that in the Amesbury case, the OPCW did not take their sample from the bottle when they were in the country from 15-18 July, but came back nearly a month later on 13th August to do this, even though the bottle was found on 10th July (after apparently sitting in Charlie Rowley’s kitchen for 10 days before it got noticed (mark that down as oddity #237)). Why on earth was this?

If the bottle had been discovered, and the OPCW were there, what possible reason could there be for them not taking a sample there and then, rather than this inexplicable delay of nearly a month?

Again, it all goes to add to the suspicion that something extremely odd was going on.

In summary, the clear connections between the Amesbury and Salisbury cases ought to mean that linking them in detail should be relatively easy for the authorities. Yet the fact that this cannot be done — and by this I mean that the “bacon wrapped” bottle makes it impossible — shows clearly that there is something very, very wrong with the explanation that the authorities have given us about the first case.

Regular readers here have known that for a long time, and yet sadly we are still no closer to knowing the truth.

As I said at the beginning, I really don’t want to write any more on this. But it would be nice if someone would tell the truth. I can only end by appealing to the consciences of those who do know what went on.

Let me put it like this: Dawn Sturgess lost her life as a result of whatever dirty games were being played out between various intelligence agencies last year. Her family and Charlie Rowley have all suffered greatly. They deserve answers. Yet they have been given none.

The Sovereign God knows what you are hiding, and whether anyone on earth holds you to account for this, he most certainly will. May you have a change of heart and of mind, and get in touch with Dawn’s family and with Charlie Rowley to give them the closure and peace of mind they are looking for.

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