Jail for 'urban terror' animal rights activists

Seven animal rights activists who waged a campaign of "urban terrorism" against companies with links to the animal testing firm Huntingdon Life Sciences in an attempt to close it have been jailed for between four and 11 years at Winchester Crown Court.

The group, which blackmailed the firms by accusing managers of paedophilia and sending fake bombs to staff, was led by Gregg Avery, 41, his wife Natasha, 39, and Heather Nicholson, 41, all founding members of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. They co-ordinated the campaign from their bungalow near Hook in Hampshire.

Also convicted of conspiracy to blackmail were Gavin Medd-Hall, 45, a computer expert who researched their victims, and three recruits, Gerrah Selby, 20, Daniel Wadham, 21, and Daniel Amos, 22.

Between 2001 and 2007, they targeted 40 firms in the UK and Europe that supplied or had other links with Huntingdon, which does contracted research for the pharmaceutical industry. The total bill for damage and security came to £12.6m.

Nicholson, from Eversley in Hampshire, was jailed for 11 years, and Avery and his wife also from Eversley, got nine years after pleading guilty. Medd-Hall, from Croydon, was jailed for eight years, and Wadham, Selby and Amos will serve five, four and four years respectively.