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Monday, 30 September, 2002, 15:40 GMT 16:40 UK
Butcher 'sent joke anthrax' letter
BBC court graphic
A businessman caused an alert at a postal sorting office by sending a "joke" salt-filled letter after the 11 September attacks and the global anthrax scare, a court has heard.

The emergency began when the envelope, allegedly sent by Harry Goldstein of Greater Manchester, started leaking its "white powder" over postman Alan Owen's hand as he sorted mail.

A special police team, formed to deal with biological and nuclear incidents, was called in and the office was evacuated.

Although officers quickly established the envelope's granular contents were harmless, it caused "widespread inconvenience", London's Southwark Crown Court heard on Monday.

Butcher Harry Goldstein
Mr Goldstein denies causing a public nuisance
The Wembley sorting office in north London was out of action for nearly two hours and 31,000 postal customers had a late first delivery and a cancelled second one, the jury was told.

Kosher butcher Mr Goldstein, 38, of Stanley Road, Salford, denies one count of causing a public nuisance in October last year.

Prosecutor Tracy Ayling reminded the jury about the 11 September attacks, and the global fears of anthrax attacks that followed.

It was against that backdrop that Mr Owen reported for work on 19 October and began sorting mail, when he discovered the leaking envelope.

The letter was addressed to Ibrahim Schwartz at the Wembley Stadium Trading Estate.

'Public nuisance?'

The court heard Mr Goldstein told police he had sent it as a "joke" to a friend and business associate.

"[But] the question is, was this just a sick or practical joke or, as the Crown say, a public nuisance?" Miss Ayling told the jury.

When questioned by defender Jonathan Goldberg QC, Mr Owen agreed the substance appeared to be salt or sugar. But he added: "I don't know what anthrax looks like."

'Oversensitive reaction'

Mr Goldberg said: "Anyone looking at the envelope would have seen...it was not addressed to the prime minister...but to Ibrahim Schwartz."

"I'm not blaming you for being oversensitive at the time, but looking back wasn't it an overreaction?"

"Not really, because if it was anthrax it would have gone through the office."

The trial continues.


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