Villagers plagued by poison pen mail Poisoned pen mail

CHOCOLATE-BOX cottages lining narrow streets surrounded by green fields make Countes- thorpe in Leicestershire seem the quintessential English village, with a cricket team and traditional pubs. But the idyllic setting harbours the vicious perpetrator of a vile poison pen campaign.

Almost every fortnight for the past two years, a nasty letter or postcard has been sent to a group of six churchgoers. The hate mail is followed by a series of handwritten posters stuck to the notice board of St Andrew's Parish Church.

Detectives set up an exhaustive investigation, using DNA and handwriting experts, but failed to find the culprit. Now the police, backed by the village vicar, have gone public in an attempt to flush out the perpetrator.

The letter campaign started almost two years ago in the normally quiet commuter village (population 5,000) about eight miles outside Leicester. Police estimate at least 30 letters, 30 postcards and 30 posters have been mailed from the local post office and displayed on the church noticeboard.

The first regular flow of malicious mail was aimed at two couples, and a separate man and woman. All were from the congregation of St Andrew's. The Rev Tony Johnson, the vicar, also received letters and cards naming the six victims. Then, outside on his church's noticeboard, the anonymous hand-written posters started to appear.

The material, often religious in tone, accuses individuals of being a "Judas", being involved in extra-marital affairs, and in the words of the local police "casting aspersions on their moral fibre". The writer threatened to disrupt the wedding of a local couple who are to marry at the church in August.

Police have installed hidden cameras to video the church's noticeboard, and sent the post for scientific analysis. Detectives were able to retrieve a fingerprint from one letter but failed to find the writer.

The saliva used on the letters and postcards has been tested for DNA samples, but with no luck, and officers have also shown examples of the author's handwriting to villagers. The latest move is to write to every home in the village, asking residents to name someone they suspect is behind the campaign.

Mr Johnson said yesterday: "Whoever it is, is trying to smear people's reputation and spread allegations of an immoral nature. Obviously we were very distressed by what these letters were saying. We know these allegations are unfounded. We do not know what the motive is but it seems to be some sort of long-term grudge against our church. The letters are very offensive and angry. The villagers are very hurt and naturally shocked and surprised at this kind of thing."

One of the victims, a 40-year-old woman who, like the other victims, does not wish to be named, said: "It has caused me and my family a great deal of stress and heartache which could be avoided if this person came forward and spoke to the police or church."

Sergeant Andy Harrison of Leicestershire police said: "We are quite sure the offender is local. The letter sometimes speak of `I', sometimes `we' but I suspect it is one person.

"There's never been any suggestion of violence and I'm sure it will not escalate into violent action.

"We have asked questions about the allegations and there is no evidence whatsoever to suggest anything improper has occurred."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
musicOfficial chart could be moved to accommodate Friday international release day
Sport
Wes Brown is sent-off
football
News
i100
Sport
Italy celebrate scoring their second try
six nations
Sport
Glenn Murray celebrates scoring against West Ham
footballWest Ham 1 Crystal Palace 3
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
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

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower