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Last Updated: Friday, 19 September, 2003, 16:12 GMT 17:12 UK
Four jailed for poultry scam
Chickens at Denby Poultry
The chickens were not fit for human consumption
Four men who formed part of a food fraud gang selling condemned poultry have been jailed for a total of 10 years.

The group had made more than 1m by selling 450 tons of unfit meat to hospitals, schools and leading supermarkets.

Nottingham Crown Court had earlier heard that the gang, based at rat-infested and sewage ridden premises in Denby, Derbyshire, butchered one million unfit chickens and turkeys before selling the meat on for almost 1m profit.

The court heard it was involved in a chain of supply that stretched to businesses in Northampton, Milton Keynes and Bury who supplied the produce, in many cases unwittingly, to about 600 customers across the UK.

This has been an appalling example of a highly organised conspiracy to defraud
Sainsbury's spokeswoman
David Lawton, 55, of Beech Avenue, Sandiacre, Derbyshire, a former manager at Denby Poultry, was jailed for four years and three months.

Robert Mattock, 59, of Longley Hall, Norland, Sowerby Bridge, West Yorkshire, who ran the firm between December 1999 and February 2000, was handed a two-year sentence.

Occasional Denby worker George Allen, 47, of Downall Green Road, Ashton in Makerfield, Greater Manchester, was given a 15-month sentence.

Gary Drewett, the owner of MK Poultry, a food processor in Northampton, which supplied the meat and added European health stamps to the produce, was also jailed.

'Maggot Pete'

The 33-year-old, of St Johns Road, Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, received a two-and-a-half-year jail term.

A fifth defendant Mark Durrant, 31, of Kingsford, Milton Keynes, a manager at MK Poultry, was given a 12-month suspended sentence.

Ringleader Peter Roberts, 68, known as "Maggot Pete", was convicted of the fraud in his absence after fleeing before the start of the 12-week trial.

Police said a warrant has been issued for the arrest of the former owner of Denby Poultry Products, of Francis Street, Derby, who is believed to be in Spain.

Raw sewage

The court was told Lawton ran the Denby firm at one stage, and at other times acted as Roberts' deputy.

Judge Benson told Lawton: "You were second-in-command for a period of three years and later you returned and captained the rotten ship Denby for nine months with a degree of enthusiasm."

Police raided the company's premises in March 2001 after an investigation lasting more than 30 months triggered by an anonymous tip-off.

They discovered skips overflowing with decaying poultry which was green in colour, and a large pool of standing water in the middle of the factory which contained raw sewage.

Product recalls

After the hearing Detective Inspector Neil Perry from Derbyshire Police said: "We are happy with the sentences passed today and this, in addition to the similar case in Rotherham in 2000, sends out a clear message to those who intend to commit these crimes."

The Food Standards Agency, which set up a Waste Food Task Force in 2001, has also confirmed three more scandals are currently being investigated.

Tesco, Sainsbury's, Kwik Save and paste manufacturer Shippam Foods confirmed that they had undertaken swift product recalls, costing around 1m, after they were warned about potential contamination of their products.

A Sainsbury's spokeswoman said: "This has been an appalling example of a highly organised conspiracy to defraud."

Illegal meat trade's 'drugs profits'
29 Aug 03  |  Nottinghamshire
Unfit meat 'riddled with bacteria'
29 Aug 03  |  Derbyshire
Fit to police the food industry?
29 Aug 03  |  Business

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