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Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 12:29 GMT 13:29 UK
Brewer jailed for cider poison plot
Michael Hancocks
Hancocks was described as the instigator of the plot
A brewery boss who plotted to contaminate a rival firm's products has been jailed for 18 months.

Michael Hancocks, 63, had been described as the "prime mover" in a plan to pour yeast-based contaminants into the production line of Hereford-based cider firm HP Bulmer.

Sentencing Hancocks and his co-conspirator Paul Harris, a judge at Bristol Crown Court described the sabotage plan as "wicked and evil".

Hancocks' firm, Birmingham-based Aston Manor Brewery, was in direct competition with Bulmer's in the cider market.

Hancocks, of Hafod Road, Hereford, pleaded guilty at a previous hearing to conspiracy to defraud Bulmer's by introducing yeast-based contaminants into their products two years ago.

What he had in mind was to dishonestly steal a commercial march on Bulmer's, in effect to teach them a lesson
Prosecutor Victor Temple QC
The court had heard Hancocks resented the success of Bulmer's, with strong commercial brands like Woodpecker, Strongbow and Scrumpy Jack.

The prosecution said Hancocks wanted to cause Bulmer's economic and commercial disadvantage in order to help his own company.

"What he had in mind was to dishonestly steal a commercial march on Bulmer's, in effect to teach them a lesson," the prosecution said in the case.

Hancocks was a major shareholder in Aston Manor - which makes Frosty Jack cider - but the court heard that, at the time of the plot, profits were falling and job losses were feared.

Hancocks recruited chemist and former Aston Manor employee Richard Gay in an effort to produce yeasts that could spoil Bulmer's products.

Bulmer's cider
Bulmer's produce some of the world's most recognisable brands
He also used his daughter's partner, Paul Harris, of Kings Caple, Hereford, to transport the material and recruit a Bulmer's employee with access to the production line.

But the worker, Russell Jordan, who was promised 16,000 for putting contaminants in the line, revealed the plot to Bulmer's and police.

Detectives then watched Mr Jordan's subsequent meetings with Harris, during which time three lots of contaminant were delivered to the Bulmer's employee.

He was told there was a plan to introduce a contaminant every month, although none ever entered the production line.

Harris, 41, was jailed for 15-months at the hearing on Thursday.

Sentencing on Gay, 51, of Weston Lane, Tyseley, Birmingham, who has pleaded guilty to possessing materials with a view to the commission of an offence, was adjourned to a later date.

Bad apple brewed cider plot
07 Aug 03  |  Hereford/Worcs
Man admits cider involvement
10 Apr 03  |  England

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