Animal rights four guilty of terror spree

Activists used blackmail and smears against directors linked to test centre

Four animal rights activists face prison sentences after being found guilty of orchestrating a blackmail and terror campaign intended to close down the Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) testing centre in Cambridgeshire.

The two men and two women, part of an extreme direct action protest group, targeted firms linked to the Huntingdon laboratories by falsely accusing company directors of being paedophiles, threatening to infect them with HIV-infected needles and carrying out bomb hoaxes at their businesses.

Other tactics used to try to force the companies to cut their links with the centre included sending used sanitary items in the post and daubing roads outside managers' homes with insults such as "puppy killer".

Heather Nicholson, 41, of Eversley, Hampshire; Gerrah Selby, 20, of Chiswick, London; Daniel Wadham, 21, of Bromley, south London, and Gavin Medd-Hall, 45, of Croydon, south London, were all found guilty at Winchester Crown Court of conspiracy to blackmail.

Another defendant, Trevor Holmes, 51, from Newcastle, was cleared by the jury after seven days of deliberation.

Earlier, three other people, Gregg Avery and Natasha Avery, both of Hampshire, and Daniel Amos, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail.

The jury was told that the defendants were all were members of the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac), which was based near Hook, Hampshire, and had embarked on "military precision" campaigns to target companies in the UK and Europe between 2001 and 2007. Margaret McQuillan, a PA at a company called Astellas, was targeted and had her house and car daubed with paint saying "ALF" (Animal Liberation Front) and "puppy killer".

The scientist Christopher Bevan, who worked for GlaxoSmithKline, was targeted in a similar way, and Keith Goodchild, who worked for Novartis, had letters sent to his neighbours falsely claiming he was a serial sex offender who went abroad to abuse children. William Denison, managing director of F2 Chemicals, said his family's life was turned into a "living hell" for six months when he was targeted by Shac. He said a hoax bomb was sent to his home and letters alleging that he was a paedophile were sent to up to 200 families in his village near Preston, Lancashire.

Mr Denison said it could have had a massive impact on his family because his wife worked as a children's special needs assistant and he helped create floats for local children's events.

Fourteen slogans, including "Bill the murderer" and "Bill the ALF [Animal Liberation Front] are coming for you" were painted in red on a 500-yard stretch of road near his home.

F2 Chemicals did not deal directly with HLS but supplied a Japanese glass company which had closer links.

Mr Denison said that unpaid-for items such as CDs and clothing, including a size 44E bra for his "slender" wife, were sent in an attempt to give him a bad credit rating.

Vincent Howard, operations director for the distribution company Biocair in Cambridge, was also targeted, even though his company did not deal directly with HLS but only for firms which had links with it.

He said the campaign of intimidation began with protests outside his company's offices before the extremists started targeting his family home.

They poured paint-stripper over his car and punctured its tyres. Then, like in Mr Denison's case, a letter was sent to 30 people in his village falsely stating he was a convicted paedophile.

The campaign was brought to an abrupt halt by a massive police raid involving 700 officers targeting addresses across the UK, the Netherlands and Belgium in May last year. All seven will be sentenced on 19 January.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Tradewind Recruitment: KS2 Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is a two form entry primary schoo...

Tradewind Recruitment: English Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: My client is an excellent, large partially ...

Tradewind Recruitment: Science Teacher

£90 - £140 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: I am currently working in partnersh...

Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £150 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Year 3 Teacher Birmingham Jan 2015...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee