Fourth animal rights activist admits farm blackmail plot

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The Independent Online

A woman has become the fourth animal rights extremist to admit to taking part in a six-year campaign which culminated in the theft of a pensioner's body from her grave,

Josephine Mayo, 38, from Birmingham, faces a lengthy prison sentence, as do three men, Kerry Whitburn from Birmingham; John Smith from Wolverhampton and Jon Ablewhite from Manchester, who admitted their part in a conspiracy to blackmail a farm breeding guinea pigs for research on Monday.

There have been calls for the remains of Gladys Hammond to be returned. They were dug up in an attempt to persuade her son-in-law, Christopher Hall, one of the brothers who own Darley Oaks Farm, in Newchurch, Staffordshire, to close the farm. It has now stopped breeding guinea pigs for medical research.

Those living near the farm, who endured years of death threats, bomb hoaxes and a paedophile smear campaign, said that it was now time to put an end to the village's ordeal.

Peter Clamp, a former parish councillor from nearby Newborough who organised a legal campaign to protect the community, said yesterday: "They should, by their own consciences, produce the remains and give them back to the family and let's get a complete closure on these sorry events."

Judge Michael Pert at Nottingham Crown Court described the defendants as "determined and cold-blooded defenders of their perceived cause".

Ablewhite, Smith and Whitburn were told to expect sentences of up to 12 years for their part in the blackmail plot when they are sentenced next month. The men all have previous convictions for animal rights related violence. Mayo will receive no more than six years behind bars.

The four will appear before a full hearing on 11 and 12 May.