Animal-liberation activist planned fire-bomb spree

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The Independent Online

Crime Correspondent

An Animal Liberation Front activist who planned a nation-wide fire- bombing campaign was found guilty yesterday of conspiring to commit arson.

David Callender, 37, of Waterloo, Merseyside, spent months travelling around the country to compile hit-lists which included information about security and escape routes, Birmingham Crown Court heard. Police said he could have caused millions of pounds of damage. He was foiled after a shopworker became suspicious when he placed a large order for kitchen timers.

Police believe his conviction is a serious blow against the extremist ALF and think he may have been involved in a number of attacks in 1991.

After Callender's arrest, police found at a house in Birmingham enough devices to plant 100 fire bombs and a list of potential targets, including an agricultural college in Humberside, food manufacturers, horse breeders, egg-production companies, foxhound associations, slaughter houses and the Milk Marketing Board.

The police also found plans referring to reconnaissance visits. They believe a bombing campaign was imminent.

The court heard that Callender, who was unemployed and had previous convictions for activities relating to the ALF dating back to 1984, left his girlfriend's house in Merseyside in May 1994 and began living at the house in Sparkhill, Birmingham. Police believe there must have been other people involved researching the targets and funding the campaign but have not traced them.

Callender was trapped in October 1994 after a woman in a wholesale kitchen suppliers in London contacted police after a telephone call from a man asking to buy 60 kitchen timers. Police mounted surveillance and later spotted Callender arriving for the timers. They followed him and arrested him when he went to Cambridge to check out possible targets.

There was evidence that at least one device had been tested and plans showed that someone had managed to get inside some of the targets.

Detective Chief Inspector Roger Simpson, of West Midlands Police, said he had no doubt that Callender was an active member of the ALF and could not rule out that he was the same man who bought identical one-hour kitchen timers from the same store in 1991.

Police later found they had been used in a spate of extremist firebomb attacks in the south of England. No one was ever caught for the offences.

Callender had pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to commit arson. He will be sentenced today. His co-defendant, Gregg Avery, 28, of Macclesfield, Cheshire, was found not guilty of the same charge.