London, Sep 7: UK police now believe the deadly nerve agent used in the attempted murder of a former Russian double agent and his daughter was brought into the country in a counterfeit perfume bottle with a specially made poison applicator.
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, National Lead for Counter Terrorism Policing revealed this after British authorities named two men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, believed to be from Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU, as the main suspects in the March 4 attack in the southern English city of Salisbury.
Ex-Russian spy Sergei Skripal, 66, and his daughter Yulia, 33, were poisoned with Novichok, a military-grade nerve agent. Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey also fell ill after responding to the incident.
The Indian-origin top counter-terrorism officer said a Nina Ricci 'Premier Jour' perfume bottle with a specially made poison applicator was recovered by police.
"We have carried out numerous inquiries in relation to the bottle and are now able to release an image of it with the nozzle attached. We are also releasing an image of the box that the bottle and nozzle were in.
"We have spoken to Nina Ricci and undertaken further inquiries. Nina Ricci and our inquiries have confirmed that it is not a genuine Nina Ricci perfume bottle, box or nozzle," he said Wednesday.
"We know that Novichok was applied to the Skripals' front door in an area that is accessible to the public, which also endangered the lives of members of the public and emergency service responders," Basu said.
The same bottle was picked up by Charlie Rowley, whose girlfriend Dawn Sturgess died after being exposed to Novichok on June 30. Rowley, 45, revealed when he regained consciousness that he found a discarded box of perfume from a charity bin and handed it to his girlfriend Dawn as a present.
"Inside the box was a bottle and applicator," Basu said. "He tried to put the two parts together at his home address on Saturday, 30 June, and in doing so got some of the contents on himself. He said Dawn had applied some of the substance to her wrists before feeling unwell."
Investigators found a pink box at his home labelled Nina Ricci Premier Jour, Basu said. This turned out to be fake. It had been unclear how the pair came across the deadly nerve agent in Salisbury but the two cases have now been linked, the British media reported.
UK police and prosecutors have also revealed that traces of Novichok were found in the hotel room where the two men spent two nights in March in east London.
Tests were carried out on May 4 on that room and it was "deemed safe," Basu said. There had been no reports to date of people falling ill between March and May after staying in the room, he said.
"The levels of Novichok we found in the room at the time of police sampling in May were such that they were not enough to cause short or long-term health effects to anyone exposed to it, at that point or thereafter," he said.
Meanwhile, Russia has dismissed the latest British claims on the nerve agent attack. "A link with Russia is being alleged. The names published in the media, like the photos, do not tell us anything," Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.