EXCLUSIVE: Mother of Novichok victim says her ‘lost soul’ daughter is being deprived the care given to the Skripals because she’s a ‘nobody alcoholic’ who turned to drink battling post-natal depression
The mother of Novichok victim Dawn Sturgess has said her daughter is being deprived the quality of care given to Sergei and Yulia Skripal because she is a ‘nobody alcoholic’.
She also slammed the police for ‘keeping the family in the dark’ by saying that Dawn had suffered a heart attack for several days before the truth came out.
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline, a close family member opened their photograph album to reveal how a popular, happy-go-lucky Salisbury schoolgirl descended into a life of alcohol addiction after suffering post-natal depression.
It comes amid mounting speculation that Dawn, 44, and her boyfriend, addict Charles Rowley, 45, became contaminated with discarded traces of the lethal toxin while rooting through bins for drugs.
The family member, who asked not to be named, spoke in detail how Dawn’s mother, Caroline Sturgess, has visited her daughter several times and is distressed at the level of care she has been given.
‘Caroline is in really bad shock. She can’t believe it,’ the family member said.
‘She has taken three weeks off work and she visited Dawn again on Friday. Dawn and Charlie are unconscious in isolation and all the visitors have to look at them through glass.
‘They are in the same ward but not in parallel beds. Dawn is not breathing for herself and she’s on a respirator. The doctors said that it’s not looking good and that she might not survive.
‘She’s on the brink of death, basically. She’s done a lot of abuse to her body already.’
But despite the round-the-clock care that the two victims are receiving in the Radnor ward intensive care unit in Salisbury hospital, Caroline believes that staff are treating them like ‘second-class citizens’ because of their addictions.
‘She feels that Dawn is not getting the same quality of treatment as the Skripals because of her background and the fact she’s an alcoholic. She’s seen as a nobody, really,’ the family member said.
She added: ‘[Caroline] is annoyed because for days the police told her that Dawn had a heart attack.
‘They didn’t tell her the truth. She feels like she hasn’t been given the whole story.’
Caroline, a steward with security clearance who works at the RAF base Boscombe Down near Salisbury, is the main carer for Dawn’s 10-year-old daughter Grace.
Her husband, Stephen Sturgess, 65, is unemployed and has a ‘difficult’ relationship with his eldest daughter.
Dawn’s two sons, Aidan, 23, and Ewan, 19, live with their father Andrew Hope, 46, a senior systems engineer also with high-level security clearance who works at Boscombe Down.
The two boys are finding the situation ‘upsetting’ but have become ‘immune’ because Dawn has been in hospital so many times with alcohol-related complaints.
‘They know what their mum is like,’ the family member said.
‘It’s upsetting but they have grown up with it all going on around them. They have become immune to it. They have built a brick wall, they have become resilient.
‘She’s been in hospital before many times and has mental health issues so to them this is just another crisis like all the others.’
Speaking of how mother-of-three Dawn turned from a popular pupil at Durrington school in Wiltshire to a homeless alcoholic, the family member described the Novichok victim as a ‘lost soul’ who ‘trusted people too easily’ and spiralled due to post-natal depression.
‘She searched so long for love and always found the wrong one. She trusts people too easily. It always seems to knock her back in the face.
‘As a child, she was happy-go-lucky. She was quite a confident person back then. She was popular and she was liked. She was always smiling and up for a good laugh.
‘She wasn’t a bright student but she wasn’t stupid. She left school at 16 and messed about and fell pregnant a few years afterwards. Her boyfriend Andrew was part of her same group of friends.’
Dawn, the eldest of four girls, gave birth to her eldest son, Aidan, when she was 21 in 1995. It was then that post-natal depression set in and she began to turn to the bottle.
‘She started to drink after Aidan was born,’ the family member said.
‘Her mother Caroline likes a drink and Dawn seemed to be following in her footsteps but in a more self-destructive way.’
Four years later her second son, Ewan, was born and Dawn’s state of mind deteriorated further.
The family member added: ‘She started drinking more and more. Andrew left her and Dawn ended up living in social housing.’
Dawn, who has never had a job, struggled to parent her two boys and eventually her mother Caroline stepped in to become their main carer, with Andy looking after them on weekends.
The family member went on: ‘Dawn was neglecting them and going off the rails. Everything was all about her. She had blinkers on and was drinking all day. She had mental health problems. She was a wreck.
‘Her personality changed. She became like a zombie. She didn’t care about anything and just let everything go. She started smoking weed and over the course of time she turned to harder drugs.’
By 2007, the family member said, Dawn was a fully-fledged drug addict as well as an alcoholic. Then she had her third child, a girl called Grace.
‘Her daughter was the result of a drunken fumble with a random man she met. They weren’t in a steady relationship or anything,’ she explained.
Caroline, who now cares for Grace full-time, has taken three weeks off work to cope with Dawn’s illness and is trying to get Grace a place on a summer camp so that she is removed from the crisis.
‘In the old pictures you can see that Dawn was a sweet girl,’ the family member said.
‘She was really pretty. Her face used to glow. She used to smile with her eyes but now her eyes are just empty. Apart from when she’s looking at her kids.’
The hunt is still on for the deadly Novichok-tainted item that left Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley fighting for their lives in Wiltshire.
Police officers have said that the investigation into the couple’s nerve agent poisoning is ‘expected to take months to complete’.
They have been trawling through more than 1,300 hours of CCTV footage to establish when and where Rowley and Sturgess came into contact with the nerve agent.
The couple were taken ill on Saturday in Amesbury, around eight miles from where former Russian spy and his daughter were poisoned with the same substance in Salisbury in March.
The second nerve agent emergency in four months has prompted a diplomatic row, with Home Secretary Sajid Javid accusing the Russian state of using Britain as a ‘dumping ground for poison’.
The Russian Embassy hit back, accusing the Government of trying to ‘muddy the waters’ and ‘frighten its own citizens’.
The Metropolitan Police said the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down confirmed on Wednesday that the victims had been exposed to Novichok.
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, told the BBC any blame for the latest poisonings lies squarely with Russia.
He said: ‘To use a persistent nerve agent in a civilian area is extraordinary, it’s a war crime, it’s an absolutely vile act of terror that is being conducted by a state that claims to be a normal state.
‘So the idea that the police weren’t ready for that is really hardly surprising, it would be a bit much to expect the constabulary to be ready for it or indeed to expect the local authority to be entirely able to clean up after it.’
Mr Tugendhat said the public can be ‘pretty confident’ that the attempted assassins of the Skripals will not have dumped many items ‘if any more at all’.
In a blistering attack in the Commons, Mr Javid demanded that the Kremlin provide an explanation for the two episodes.
‘The eyes of the world are currently on Russia, not least because of the World Cup,’ he said.
‘It is now time that the Russian state comes forward and explains exactly what has gone on.’