COUNTER terrorism detectives investigating the contamination of two people by the nerve agent Novichok believe they have found the source of the deadly substance.

A small bottle was recovered on Wednesday during searches of Charlie Rowley’s house in Amesbury and was taken to the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (DSTL) at Porton Down for tests.

Following tests, scientists have now confirmed that the substance contained within the bottle is Novichok.

Further scientific tests will be carried out to try and establish whether it is from the same batch that contaminated Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March which detectives say remains a main line of enquiry for police.

And inquiries are under way to establish where the bottle came from and how it came to be in Charlie’s house.

Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley became ill on Saturday, June 30, after being exposed to the nerve agent. 

Ms Sturgess, 44, from Durrington, died in hospital on Sunday (July 8).

Detectives launched a murder inquiry following her death.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, the Head of UK Counter Terrorism Policing, said: “This is clearly a significant and positive development.

"However, we cannot guarantee that there isn’t any more of the substance left and cordons will remain in place for some considerable time. This is to allow thorough searches to continue as a precautionary measure for public safety and to assist the investigation team.

“I also appreciate there is a lot of interest in this; however, we are not in a position to disclose any further details regarding the bottle at this stage."

He added: “The safety of the public and our officers remains paramount and we are continuing to work closely with Wiltshire Police, scientists, health experts from Public Health England and other partners.”

"Officers from the investigation team have spoken to Charlie and will be speaking to him further to establish how he and Dawn came to be contaminated. This contact is being done in close consultation with the hospital and the doctors.

"The risk to the public in Salisbury and Amesbury remains low. We have not seen any further cases of illness linked to this incident. As a precaution Public Health England continues to advise the public not to pick up any strange items such as syringes, needles, cosmetics or similar objects made of materials such as metal, plastic or glass.

"The advice remains “if you didn’t drop it, then don’t pick it up”.

A post-mortem is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, July 17 and an inquest into Dawn’s death is due to be open and adjourned in Salisbury on Thursday, July 19.

Charlie remains in a serious, but stable condition.

Wiltshire Police Chief Constable Kier Pritchard said: “Today’s update from the investigation team is both significant and encouraging.

“I hope that it will further reassure our communities in both Amesbury and Salisbury that the investigation, although complex, is  meticulous.

“We continue to support colleagues from the Counter Terrorism Policing Network to progress the inquiry as swiftly and safely as possible.

“The way that we do this might start to look slightly different from next week when private security guards will join my officers on some of the cordons.

“This will free up some Wiltshire Police officers to get back to supporting day-to-day community policing. We’ve also been receiving support from other Forces in the country with scene-guarding and I am incredibly grateful for this."

He added: “This week I’ve been visiting residents of Amesbury and Salisbury and it’s clear that this is a close-knit community that is very much open for business despite the recent challenges they have faced."

A dedicated helpline - 0800 092 0410 – has been set up for anyone with health concerns in relation to this incident.

Anyone with information that may assist the investigation is urged to contact counter terrorism police on 0800 789 321.