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by John Helmer, Moscow 

The Wiltshire county coroner investigating British Government allegations that Russian military agents using a Russian-made poison called Novichok caused the death of a woman, Dawn Sturgess, on July 8, 2018, has lied in his report of the inquest into her death.  

This has been revealed by evidence gathered by the Wiltshire police two years ago, and recovered this week.

Senior Coroner David Ridley (lead image, right) has also concealed evidence from the coroner’s court inquest file and withheld it from the Russian Government after promising “to assist with the Russian Federation’s investigation of Ms Sturgess’ death…if the Russian Federation were to be supplied with a copy of the coronial investigation file which focuses on Ms Sturgess’ death.”

Asked to respond to the police evidence and to say if he had passed the file to the Russian Government, Ridley refused to say. “You are not an Interested Person as defined by S47 Coroners and Justice Act  2009 [ click for link ], and therefore [Ridley] will not be responding to your e-mails or correspondence.” But last December Ridley published a ruling identifying two Russians – the alleged Novichok assassins – as “Interested Persons”, declaring “the same disclosure material…will be provided to all Interested Persons including Messrs Petrov and Boshirov.”

Ridley did not provide the “disclosure material”, according to the Russian Embassy in London.

The reason for Ridley’s cover-up is that the “disclosure material” in the “coronial investigation file” includes Wiltshire police evidence, together with blood and toxicology tests from Salisbury District Hospital; these show Sturgess had taken illegal drugs, the contamination of which caused her death. The Wiltshire police and hospital medical reports were dated more than a week before the authorities claim to have discovered Novichok on the kitchen table at the apartment where Sturgess fell mortally ill.

The initial police evidence and Coroner Ridley’s later lying about it indicate the British secret services used Sturgess’s corpse to find the weapon missing from their earlier story of the March 4, 2018, attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia Skripal. The Skripals have not been permitted to testify what happened to them; they are being held incommunicado and in secret without access to family, lawyers, the Russian Embassy, or the press.

The police revelations come on the eve of the broadcast by the state British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) of a three-part series called “The Salisbury Poisonings”. This will go to air on June 14, 15, and 16. According to BBC advertising, the film “captures the bravery, resilience and, in some cases, personal tragedy of the unsuspecting locals, who faced a situation of unimaginable horror so close to home.” Coroner Ridley is not shown in the film as playing either an unsuspecting or a brave role.   

Ridley is the senior coroner in charge of the Sturgess inquest. His coroner’s court at 26 Endless Street, Salisbury, is the only British court to have opened public proceedings in what Theresa May told parliament was an open-and-shut case of Russian chemical warfare and attempted assassination against Skripal, a Russian military intelligence officer turned British double agent.  “The attack on the Skripals and the events in Amesbury…now forms one investigation,” then-Prime Minister May told the House of Commons on September 5, 2018.   “There is no other line of inquiry beyond this… The Russian State was responsible… this was not a rogue operation. It was almost certainly also approved outside the GRU at a senior level of the Russian state.”

Since July 2018 Ridley has repeatedly postponed presentation of evidence and witness testimony in the Sturgess inquest. But on December 20 last, Ridley issued a ruling in which he reported he had already decided that a Russian Novichok plot was the cause of death. Read the ruling here.    For detailed analysis, go to the book.

Newly retrieved Wiltshire police evidence shows that before the Novichok story there was an investigation of criminal drug dealing at the Sturgess-Rowley apartment on the day and night before their admission to hospital; of the takeover of the apartment by drug dealers in what the local police call cuckooing; and of a party of drug dealers and users at which one of those present later accused another of supplying bad drugs and tried to strangle him.   

Ridley has created a record suppressing this evidence, and stonewalled press inquiries into the first reported cause of Sturgess’s death. “As a member of the public,” Ridley said on Monday, “you are not a participant in the proceedings and therefore the only information you are entitled to is as regards details as to when and where public hearings will take place.”

No public hearing of the coroner’s court will be held for the foreseeable future. Instead, there will be a High Court hearing in London next month; the story of what may be revealed then can be read here.

In the BBC film “The Salisbury Poisonings” an actress playing Dawn Sturgess (left) sprays Novichok from a perfume bottle on to her wrist and inhales it, while Charles Rowley, her partner played by an actor (right),  watches. In the fictional version, the bottle is shown in the bathroom, not in the kitchen where the British authorities claim to have found it at least eleven days later. Watch the trailer.

The Wiltshire police investigation, including blood and toxicology tests carried out at Salisbury  Hospital, where Sturgess and her partner Charles Rowley were admitted on June 30, 2018, showed the couple had ingested Class A drugs, the potency and combination of which were the cause of Sturgess’s death. In the coroner’s files too, there  is evidence of police arrests of drug dealers in a Salisbury area network which supplied several of Sturgess’s and Rowley’s associates who were interrogated by the police, and who admitted they were together before Sturgess’s collapse.

Independent researcher Liane Theuer has recovered the internet records created by the Wiltshire police, by local press and radio, by individuals who were with Sturgess and Rowley before their hospitalisation, and by Sturgess herself. Many of these records were removed or erased from the internet after Novichok was announced by the London authorities to have been the cause of Sturgess’s death.

Sturgess and Rowley were not alone on the night June 29 to 30, Theuer reports from Rowley’s and other eyewitness evidence. Together with Rowley’s brother Matthew and friends identified as Sam Hobson and Craig Pattenden, they had spent the afternoon of June 29 in a Salisbury town park, then caught the bus to Rowley’s apartment in nearby Amesbury; that had been assigned to him as part of a drug rehabilitation programme of the Wiltshire county council. “These two individuals [Sturgess and Charles Rowley] were textbook examples of Wiltshire council’s approach to helping people,” a county councilman told a London newspaper. “[Rowley] was successfully rehoused.”

At least two others, later identified by name as Ben Milsom and Josh Harris, have been reported to have been either at the party or at the apartment on the following day; or both. Harris has confirmed his presence at the apartment.  Milsom has said he gave Charles Rowley a lift in his van from the apartment after Sturgess’s collapse; he sold the van shortly afterwards.  

Hobson has said in subsequent interviews he slept overnight at the apartment; left in the early morning of June 30 and then returned to witness the ambulance evacuation of Sturgess, she appeared to Hobson to be dead. He then accompanied Charles Rowley shopping, lunching and drinking for several hours of the day before Rowley succumbed. Part of that time was spent with Milsom. Hobson appears to have been blamed by Rowley for supplying Sturgess and himself  with bad drugs, and to have been attacked by Rowley that day.

Left: map of southern England, showing the Salisbury and Amesbury incident locations. Right, Dawn Sturgess in June 2018.

Top row, left to right: Charles Rowley; Sam Hobson; Matthew Rowley. According to Hobson, in the afternoon of June 30, after Sturgess had been in hospital for several hours,  Charles Rowley had attacked him.  “He started feeling a little weird, he told me he thought he had been poisoned. Then he started accusing me and even trying to strangle me.” Bottom row, left to right Josh Harris; Craig Pattenden; Ben Milsom. For Harris’s testimony about his symptoms at the time, read this.   Harris also gave this interview.  

Sturgess’s parents, Stan and Caroline Sturgess, have given press interviews in which they say they believe their daughter “died not in hospital but in Rowley’s flat with the man she was in love with.”  It is unclear from the press report what details from the coronial investigation file or the toxicology tests carried out at the hospital have been provided to them,  and when. “When we found out it was Novichok,” Stan Sturgess has said, “we were relieved to have the confirmation that it wasn’t her fault.” He also said in the same newspaper interview: “I want justice from our own government. What are they hiding? I don’t think they have given us all the facts.” With Charles Rowley, the Sturgess couple have launched a campaign for compensation to be paid by the British Government, run by lawyers Michael Mansfield and Irene Nembhard. Click for more details.  

The Wiltshire police evidence restored by Theuer reveals that after Salisbury Hospital had spent three days testing blood, urine and tissue samples from Sturgess and Rowley, the police were investigating criminal drug dealing and consumption of bad drugs at their apartment on the evening between June 29 and 30:

Source: https://twitter.com/AmesburyCPT/

The next day the Wiltshire police issued a further warning against cuckooing; that is, the takeover by drug dealers of homes occupied by drug users vulnerable to exploitation and coercion.

Source: Wiltshire Police, July 3, 2018

On July 4 – that is four days after Sturgess and Rowley had been admitted to hospital – the Wiltshire police published the conclusion from their investigation, their roundup of witnesses, and from the hospital evidence that the drugs Sturgess and Rowley had taken were Class A criminal and contaminated. Detective Sergeant Eirin Martin was explicit. “We believe the two patients have fallen ill after using from a contaminated batch of drugs, possibly heroin or crack cocaine.” The evidence was so strong, Martin acknowledged that  publishing details of the crime was an “unusual step… we are also asking anyone who may have information about this batch of drugs… we just need to know how these people came to fall ill and where the drugs may have been bought from and who they may have been sold to.”

Source: https://web.archive.org/web/

DS Martin’s investigation didn’t start with the discovery of Sturgess and Rowley in Amesbury on June 30. Ten days earlier, the Wiltshire police announced they had uncovered cuckooing by drug dealers nearby, and had made four arrests.  

Source: https://www.spirefm.co.uk 
Continuing  police investigation in the Salisbury-Amesbury area reportedly identified a local heroin dealer with knowledge of “who sold the heroin in glass bottles to Charlie and Dawn.”

In his December 20 ruling, Coroner Ridley issued what he called a “Background Factual Timeline”. This, he explained, followed his “review of the evidence in my possession [which] gives rise to the following timeline.”

This is the evidence sequence, according to Ridley, which led to Sturgess’s death:

Source: https://drive.google.com/file/

Ridley also claimed he had “numerous meetings with the relevant Senior Investigation Officer, Det. Chief Inspector Murphy from the Counter Terrorism Policing – South East”; Philip Murphy, according to Ridley, was “the senior investigating officer that I have been primarily relying on to assist in the gathering of evidence in relation to Ms Sturgess’ death.” Murphy is a 29-year veteran of Thames Valley Police, based at Reading, 100 kilometres to the south of Salisbury; he has not served in the Wiltshire force.

Ridley reported not only reviewing Murphy’s file of the police evidence, but also deciding that it was proof a Russian assassination scheme was the cause of Sturgess’s death — although no inquest has been held.

“As a result of reviewing the evidence,” Ridley wrote, “I have made both Mr Petrov and Mr Boshirov Interested Persons on the basis that they may by an act or omission have caused or contributed to Ms Sturgess’ death. The investigation will include examining their movements in the United Kingdom…It will look at to what extent they were individually involved in bringing Novichok to Salisbury and what happened to the Novichok once it had been used in the attack relative to the appearance of Novichok again at the end of June 2018 in the town of Amesbury a few miles to the north of Salisbury. This part of the investigation is essential as, in discharging my judicial role and hearing the evidence, I may have to consider whether the evidence supports the finding of a conclusion of ‘Unlawful Killing’ in respect of Ms Sturgess’ death.”

Although Ridley was using the future tense for his investigation and court hearing, in fact he had already concluded what the evidence compiled by Murphy showed. “Evidence will be presented at the final hearing by DCI Murphy, that the confirmation that the perfume bottle found at Mr Rowley’s property contained Novichok was the first time that they had evidence that something from the March 2018 attack had been left behind.”

Ridley was asked to explain how the briefings he had received from Murphy and the evidence in the coronial investigation file were missing the Wiltshire police conclusion that a contaminated batch of Class A drugs, consumed by Sturgess, Rowley and their friends at the Amesbury apartment on June 29, 2018,  had been the cause of Sturgess’s death.

Ridley refuses to answer.

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