Police investigating the nerve agent poisonings in Wiltshire have removed two bins from Salisbury city centre after one of the survivors, Charlie Rowley, revealed he may have taken a bottle that contained novichok from them.
The bins were removed on Thursday from behind the Cloisters pub and taken to a government laboratory at Porton Down to be analysed.
Friends of Rowley, whose partner Dawn Sturgess died after being exposed to novichok, have said he habitually went “bin diving” behind the shops and other buildings on Catherine Street.
The Metropolitan police said: “Officers from the counter-terrorism policing network are continuing to speak to Charlie Rowley about his recollections prior to him falling ill.
“As a result of this, specialists began removing two bins from a cordoned-off area behind shops in Catherine Street, Salisbury. The bins will be taken to the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down for analysis.”
Police continue to search a number of sites, including the Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury, which Sturgess and Rowley visited before falling ill at the end of last month.
The Met said: “As a highly precautionary measure, the park is subject of an extensive search to ensure that there is nothing of investigative relevance at that location and to provide confidence to the public that it is safe to use the area when it is reopened.”
It emerged on Wednesday that Wiltshire’s air ambulance had been grounded and its base closed to allow specialists to test for novichok. Police acknowledged that the development would alarm people, but said the measure was only precautionary and that the risk to both the public and emergency personnel was low.
Testing is taking place at the air ambulance base in Semington, near Trowbridge. The helicopter itself, other emergency vehicles and kit worn by responders involved in the initial response to the poisoning of Sturgess and Rowley are also being examined.
It is not believed that the helicopter played a direct role in the response to Sturgess and Rowley falling ill, but some paramedics who went to help the couple may later have flown in it.
Rowley, who continues to recover from the effects of the poisoning, has said the nerve agent took just 15 minutes to affect Sturgess after she sprayed what he described as an oily substance on to her wrists, believing it was perfume he had given her as a gift.
The pair were poisoned four months after the Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, were found unconscious on a park bench in Salisbury after being exposed to novichok.