British farmer building gallows for export to Africa

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The Independent Online

A British farmer who sold execution equipment to countries such as Zimbabwe and Libya has been accused of "making a mockery" of UK efforts to oppose the death penalty abroad.

David Lucas, who makes a modest income selling animal bedding, outhouses and garden sheds from his Suffolk farm, said he has been profiting from a sideline in exporting platform gallows.

Amnesty International's UK director Kate Allen said yesterday there were "gaping loopholes" in the regulations concerning execution equipment, adding: "It makes a mockery of UK efforts to oppose the death penalty around the world if right under its nose a British company is sending hanging equipment abroad".

Mr Lucas, who owns the land on which the bodies of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were found in 2002, has been manufacturing gallows since 1996. The devices are made to order and shipped to countries with poor human rights records.

In recent years he has begun marketing his own designs, many of which are complex public execution systems that come with nooses and trap doors and can be mounted on lorries.

"We are able to arrange supply, delivery and construction of stables and other small buildings," Mr Lucas says on his website. The term "other small buildings" appears to include everything from platform hangman's gallows, starting at £12,000 each, to "multi-hanging mobile public execution systems", costing upwards of £100,000.

Mr Lucas will be allowed to continue his sideline until 31 July, when the new European Commission Trade Regulation will make it unlawful to export any form of torture equipment.