A park in the centre of Salisbury that has been cordoned off for almost two months after a Wiltshire couple were poisoned with the nerve agent novichok is to be reopened.

Queen Elizabeth Gardens, a popular public space, was closed after Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley came into contact with novichok in early July. It was due to open again on Friday afternoon.

Sturgess died while Rowley was discharged from hospital after being treated and decontaminated.

The gardens, close to the cathedral and water meadows, were closed because Sturgess and Rowley visited the park shortly before they fell ill. A small section was sectioned off and searched intensely while a larger area was closed as a “highly precautionary” measure, police said.

Counter-terrorism officers and specialist search teams have been involved in the search. A stream and two rivers that run through the park have also been examined by a police water search team.

Rowley has claimed the novichok was in a perfume bottle that he found – although he cannot remember where – and gave to Sturgess.

Police have said only that they found a small bottle containing novichok at Rowley’s flat in Amesbury, 10 miles north of Salisbury.

Detectives are working on the theory that the poisoning of the pair is connected to the nerve agent attack on the Russian former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, Yulia, in Salisbury in March.

The police said they had recovered many bin-loads of rubbish and broken glass from the park but did not say if anything of significance to the investigation had been found.

Deputy chief constable Paul Mills, of Wiltshire police, said on Friday: “Today marks a milestone in terms of our ongoing response to the incident. Alongside the counter-terrorism policing network (CTPN), we have worked methodically and meticulously to assess if there was anything of relevance in the park to the investigation and ensure that there was no wider risk to the public.

“Queen Elizabeth Gardens has been searched by specially trained officers and the results reviewed. Decontamination activity was conducted, is now complete and the site is safe and can be returned to public use.

“We are satisfied that the park and gardens pose no risk to the public and can now be fully reopened for the public to once again enjoy.”

According to Rowley’s brother, Matthew, he was back in hospital this week because of vision problems.

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