|3D-Novichok ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons (ChiralJon)|
Fast forward to the end of June, and two more people were poisoned by Novichok, thought to be from the very same batch used against the Skripals, but at a much higher strength - at least ten times as concentrated. The victims on this occasion - Dawn Sturgess and boyfriend Charlie Rowley - were, however, random members of the public, who became exposed to the substance after Charlie picked up an abandoned perfume bottle in the Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury and took it back to his house in Amesbury.
|Queen Elizabeth Gardens, Salisbury ~ Source: Geograph|
Some reports say that only Dawn sprayed the contents onto her skin, while others state that both she and her partner did. And I say 'spray', but I have seen one newspaper account which describes the transfer method used by Dawn as 'dabbing'. All the papers agree that it was a 'small glass bottle'. None has mentioned the brand, so perhaps it was unbranded and just a recognisable perfume atomiser or dab bottle of some kind. Then unless this was an obviously unisex scent, it seems unlikely to me that Charlie would test it on himself, but the mere act of handling the bottle may have been enough to lead to serious levels of contamination.
I heard on the news tonight that Charlie Rowley was discharged from hospital this morning. Dawn Sturgess sadly died eight days after collapsing at her boyfriend's home, where the little bottle was recovered by police.
Coming hard on the heels of the Skripal case, this incident is equally if not more shocking, in that the attack was aimed at mere passersby, with no connection whatsoever to the Russian state and its apparatus. It suddenly makes you think that any found object, however innocent-looking, has the potential to be dangerous - or even fatal. And it seems horribly perverse that fragrance, the transformative power of which is invariably a force for good, should be subverted to these evil and destructive ends. As well as sadly making the names of Dior's 'Poison' range - that infamously groundbreaking collection comprising original Poison from 1985 and its flankers - sound like an unfortunate self-fulfilling prophecy.
Would this incident make you more wary about found objects generally, and perfume specifically?
According to the Daily Mail, police have warned people in Salisbury: "If you didn't drop it, don't pick it up." So that appears to be the official line, at least locally.
But on the other hand, is there a danger we could become immobilised by fear from touching anything that doesn't belong to us? What if someone dropped their wallet...surely the public-spirited thing would be to pick it up and hand it in? That said, the sheer audacity and inhumanity of this attack certainly gives you pause...