In November 2015, Rowley was jailed for eight weeks for posession of eleven wraps of heroin and theft of £1,700 from Matthew Rowley. He was already serving a suspended sentence for driving while banned.
Sam Hobson, a friend of Rowley said that she pair had touched an unspecified item in Queen Elizabeth Gardens in Salisbury then began feeling ill and were getting ready to go to hospital. The friend alleged Sturgess and Rowley "went into a zombie-like state" and "slumped against the wall".
Swindon fire brigade's operational support unit made a seventy seven mile round trip to Amesbury and made a (now deleted) tweet that the incident "wasn't serious" and that their "decontamination shower wasn't required".
Rowley was then taken to hospital by police and paramedics in hazmat suits.
Ministry of Defence sources then claimed the couple were poisoned by a substance that has been retrieved and had samples sent to the Porton Down research facility for immediate testing and suggested it could be a Novichok nerve agent.
Around 2pm on Wednesday 4 July Hamish de Bretton-Gordon, along with the press visited the street where Rowley was taken ill. de Bretton-Gordon later went on television and came up with a story of assumptions suggesting that Russian assassins had casually discarded a syringe or container with Novichok or precursors, possibly into a nearby river, which had drained and allowed the Rowley and Sturgess to find and touch it, despite no such syringe or container having been recovered. The police then announced the same thing.
Around 9pm on Wednesday 4th July, Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu alleged the substance which has left Rowley critically ill in hospital was the the same A-234 Novichok nerve agent that was involved with Sergei Skripal.
Craig Murray has noted it unusual that Rowley and Sturgess, despite being unemployed, were in an expensive property on Muggleton Road, Amesbury. According to Zoopla homes range from £270,000 up to £430,000 on that road, which is a new build estate. Murray noted that on Rowley's facebook page, one of his “Likes” is a mortgage broker, which Murray found to be consistent with his brand new house. Murray also speculated whether Pablo Miller might know Sturgess or Rowley from having lived in the same community.