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Animal rights militant admits bomb offences

A man accused of being the Animal Liberation Front's leading bomb-maker faces a lengthy jail sentence after admitting conducting a campaign of terror against companies linked to Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS).

Donald Currie, 39, a jobless father of three, was remanded in custody at Reading Crown Court. He will be sentenced on 28 September after psychiatric reports.

Police, who have launched a crackdown against animal rights extremists resulting in several high-profile convict-ions, claimed they had delivered a serious setback to militants. A senior police source said after the hearing: "Currie is the Animal Liberation Front's top bomber. This is a significant blow to animal rights extremism."

Currie admitted arson charges and possessing makeshift incendiary devices. He also admitted two counts of possessing an explosive substance with intent to endanger life and seriously damage property.

Currie was arrested in March after an incident at the home of Roland and Caroline Brooks, in Caversham, Berkshire. Police discovered homemade bombs, consisting of weed killer and sugar, below Mr Brooks' car. He was a director of PDP Courier Services, which had alleged dealings with HLS. A message on an Animal Liberation Front (ALF) website warned: "Unless you pull out of HLS, we will be back soon, and next time we'll blow them up."

The Cambridgeshire-based biotech company has been the subject of a long-running and increasingly violent campaign against its use of animals in clinical trials. Currie also pleaded guilty to arson, and recklessly endangering life in another attack on property belonging to Paul and Joan Blackburn, of Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, in September last year.

Currie denied a fifth similar charge over a blaze in May last year at a cardboard box firm in Williton, Somerset, which caused £140,000-worth of damage. A note admitting responsibility for the blaze was posted on an ALF website. John Price, for the prosecution, told the court that Currie's pleas were acceptable to the Crown because he had admitted the most serious offences.

Acting Deputy Chief Constable Alex Marshall, of Thames Valley Police, said: "The offences were of a very serious nature and demonstrate the lengths a minority of animal-rights activists are prepared to go to for their cause. The bravery of the victims, who refused to be intimidated by extremists who targeted their homes and families, coupled with the determination and hard work put in by the detectives on this case, has produced an excellent result today. We await sentencing with interest."

In 2001, David Blenkinsop, 34, from Horsted Keynes, West Sussex was jailed for three years after he admitted attacking the managing director of HLS with a pickaxe handle. Brian Cass, 53, was left with a three-inch head wound after the attack.

Animal rights activists have recently focused their attention on Oxford University, which is planning to build a new research laboratory. The original contractors pulled out after threats. In May, four animal rights activists were jailed for conspiracy to blackmail the owners of a farm that bred guinea pigs for medical research at Newchurch in Staffordshire. The six-year campaign culminated in the theft of the remains of one of the owner's late relatives from a local graveyard. The farm later ceased breeding guinea pigs.