Page last updated at 19:17 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 20:17 UK

Police bugged animal rights group

Police bugged the headquarters of an animal rights group accused of using threats against suppliers of an animal testing laboratory, a court has heard.

Five defendants, from Hampshire, Newcastle and London, are accused of blackmailing firms with links to Huntingdon Life Sciences in Cambridge.

The five were allegedly part of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, which had its headquarters near Hook, Hampshire.

Winchester Crown Court heard audio from a meeting in 2007 had been recorded.

Heather Nicholson, 41, of Eversley, Hampshire, Trevor Holmes, 51, of Newcastle; Gerrah Selby, 20, of Chiswick, London; Daniel Wadham, 21, of Bromley, south London and Gavin Medd-Hall, 45, of Croydon, south London, are accused of being closely involved in a campaign from 2001 until 2007, which targeted companies in Britain and Europe.

All five deny conspiracy to blackmail.

Hoax bombs

Three others: Gregg Avery and Natasha Avery, both of Hampshire, and Daniel Amos, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail, the court was told.

Jurors heard the five defendants were a well-organised, worldwide organisation that supported intimidation.

The group apparently met every three months to discuss their campaign with regular updates from colleagues in the US and Europe.

The five are accused of blackmailing firms they suspected of having links to Huntingdon Life Sciences using threats, including hoax bombs, criminal damage, claiming managers were paedophiles, and threatening telephone calls.

Mr Michael Bowes QC, for the prosecution said their bugged conversations, deleted spreadsheets and emails showed SHAC supported "direct action" against people and firms with links to Huntingdon Life Sciences.

This action was illegal and could be traced to actual attacks on people across Britain, jurors heard.

'Puppy killer'

Victims were wide-ranging and included scientists, managing directors and a personal assistant, Mr Bowes told the court.

A personal assistant at Astellas, had her house painted with the words ALF (Animal Liberation Front) and "puppy killer".

Keith Goodchild, who worked for Novartis, had letters sent to neighbours claiming he was a paedophile who went abroad to abuse children.

Earlier in the trial, jurors heard Ms Nicholson was a founder member of SHAC who managed the "menacing" campaigns against firms named on the SHAC website.

The blackmail would only stop when targeted firms put out a "capitulation statement" to SHAC to say they would no longer supply Huntingdon Life Sciences, the court was told.

The trial continues.


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