One man cleared in rhino horn trial

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The Independent Online
A MAN accused of conspiring to sell pounds 2.8m worth of rhinoceros horn was cleared by a court yesterday.

Judge Peter Langan QC ruled at King's Lynn Crown Court there was no case to answer against Paul Rexstrew at the end of the prosecution case on the second day of the hearing. The jury was directed to return a verdict of not guilty against Mr Rexstrew, 45, of Wimbledon, south-west London.

Four other people, Carol Scotchford-Hughes, 50, of Willingham, Cambridgeshire, Elaine Arscott, 40, and David Eley, 54, both of Great Shelford, Cambridgeshire, and a serving prisoner, 63-year-old Wilfred Bull, have admitted the charge of conspiring to sell rhino horn between 1 January and 4 September 1996 and are due to be sentenced next month.

The court was told the conspiracy was hatched by Bull in prison where he was serving life for murdering his wife in 1985. Bull - who was jailed in 1986 - had collected the 127 rhino pieces before their trade was outlawed in 1985 and wanted to sell them in preparation for his expected release in 1997.

The court was told that Bull brought in his mistress, Scotchford-Hughes, who recruited Eley and Arscott. They hoped to sell the horns to buyers in the Far East where they are sought after as a medicine and an aphrodisiac.

But the RSPCA was tipped off after Arscott, using a false name, rang the London Stock Exchange to inquire about a sale. Police and RSPCA undercover officers then posed as buyers and arranged to buy the 235kg of rhino horn for pounds 12,000 per kilogram.

The prosecution alleged that Mr Rexstrew, a legal executive, had been brought in by Bull to launder the money because the sale was illegal under the Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement Regulations) Act 1985. But the judge accepted a defence submission that there was no case to answer because there was no evidence to prove that Mr Rexstrew knew the subject of the deal was rhino horn.