Page last updated at 15:55 GMT, Monday, 15 December 2008

Jury out in animal rights trial

The jury has retired to consider its verdict in the trial of five animal rights activists accused of a campaign of blackmail.

They are accused of using threats, including criminal damage and hoax bombs, against firms with links to Huntingdon Life Sciences in Cambridge.

The five accused, from Hampshire, London and Newcastle, all deny conspiracy to blackmail.

The jury was sent out at Winchester Crown Court on Monday.

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.

'Paedophile' claims

Three other people, Gregg Avery and Natasha Avery, both of Hampshire, and Daniel Amos, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail, Winchester Crown Court was told.

The defendants are said to have been part of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), which was based near Hook, Hampshire.

The group used threats such as claiming managers of the companies were paedophiles, sending hoax bombs parcels, causing criminal damage and making threatening telephone calls to force them to cut links with the animal testing company Huntingdon Life Sciences, the trial was told.

The court heard Ms Nicholson, from Eversley in Hampshire, was a founder member of SHAC who managed the "menacing" campaigns against the firms.

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