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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 October, 2004, 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK
Animal group condemn grave attack
Gladys Hammond
The remains were disturbed seven years after Mrs Hammond's death
An animal rights group has condemned the desecration of an 82-year-old woman's grave in Staffordshire in which most of her remains were stolen.

Gladys Hammond's burial plot at St Peter's Church, in Yoxall, was found disturbed on Thursday.

Her family breed guinea pigs for medical research and police are investigating the theory that animal activists were responsible.

A spokesman for Speak, an animal rights group, said it did not help the cause.

The media have judged us guilty already
Mel Broughton, from Speak
Mrs Hammond, who died in 1997, was the mother-in-law of one of two brothers who run Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch, where guinea pigs are bred.

The Hall family has been subjected to a long-running campaign by animal rights activists, suffering hate mail, malicious phone calls, hoax bombs, a paedophile smear campaign and arson attacks.

Mel Broughton, a spokesman for animal rights group Speak, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he condemned the desecration.

He said: "I fail to see how it furthers the cause of animal rights,"

However, Mr Broughton said the act may not have been carried out by animal rights protesters.

"The media have tried and judged us already and we have to take into account this possibly could be an act by someone, or persons, to try and blacken the animal rights campaign and I think that has to be taken on board as well."

Asked about comments on a US animal rights website describing the desecration as a success, he said it did not speak for the whole movement.

The campaign is nothing but terrorism
Michael Fabricant MP
"It would be wrong to tarnish the whole protest movement on the words of one individual," he said.

Michael Fabricant, Conservative MP for Lichfield, called for more police action to protect the guinea pig farm and its workers.

Speaking on the same programme, he said: "It is outrageous that the Home Secretary and the police say this must stop, but intimidation continues week in and week out."

He said the campaign was nothing but terrorism.

Police say the people responsible for desecrating the grave may have spent up to four hours at the site overnight between last Tuesday and Wednesday morning.

Grave scene
Forensic analysis of the grave has been completed
It is understood that no message was left at the scene and the Hall family are not thought to have received any communication explaining why Mrs Hammond's remains were targeted.

Det Ch Insp Nicholas Baker, of Staffordshire Police, said: "We have now completed a detailed search of the graveyard and the surrounding areas.

"Most of the remains of Gladys Hammond are missing and we can only presume that those persons responsible for the desecration have taken the remains.

"Although we are maintaining an open mind, one obvious line of inquiry has to be the connection with the Hall family."

Det Ch Insp Baker says he has not found any colleagues around the country with any experience of dealing with a similar offence.

Detectives are urging anyone with information to contact Stafford police or the Crimestoppers hotline anonymously.

Activists blamed for grave attack
12 Oct 04  |  Staffordshire
Remains taken from damaged grave
11 Oct 04  |  Staffordshire
Police comb desecrated grave site
09 Oct 04  |  Staffordshire
Villagers targeted in four-year campaign
08 Oct 04  |  Staffordshire
Protest 'link' to desecrated grave
08 Oct 04  |  Staffordshire

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