[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 4 May 2006, 15:30 GMT 16:30 UK
Timeline: Farm under siege
Gladys Hammond
Gladys Hammond's remains have never been found
Since taking the decision to breed guinea pigs for medical research at Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch, Staffordshire, the Hall family have suffered a five year campaign of abuse and intimidation.

Death threats and letter bombs have been sent and the grave of relative Gladys Hammond was dug up and her remains stolen.

The family have now decided to stop breeding guinea pigs and return to traditional farming. They hope this will result in Mrs Hammond's remains being returned.

1999

John Hall and his brother Christopher, traditionally dairy farmers, begin breeding guinea pigs for medical research.

Their farm is raided by animal rights activists who claim that the guinea pigs bred there are kept in appalling conditions - a claim denied by the Halls.

Protestors also object to the animals' use in laboratory experiments. A campaign is set up called Save the Newchurch Guinea Pigs in a bid to force the Halls to close down their business.

Mr Hall says he is prepared to work with "civilised" activists. Regular demonstrations begin outside the farm, but some animal rights activists begin a systematic campaign of intimidation.

Threats are made against the Hall family and farm property is attacked. When the Halls refuse to capitulate, activists then target their employees.

2003 to 2004

Roads and beauty spots nearby are daubed with abusive graffiti, local pubs are attacked and are explosives let off at night leaving local residents sleepless.

Over 450 separate incidents are recorded in this time period alone, leaving an entire community feeling under siege.

6 OCTOBER 2004

The campaign of intimidation against the Halls moves to a new level when the body of Chris Hall's mother-in-law, Gladys Hammond, 82, is dug up and removed from its grave in St Peter's Churchyard, Yoxall.

John Hall
John Hall has been forced to give up his business

John Hall tells the BBC's Inside Out programme that what has happened is unbelievable.

"To desecrate lovely Gladys's grave is an absolute outrage, it just goes beyond belief really. They call us scum but I wonder if they really know the meaning of the word," he said.

Animal Rights group Speak openly condemns the desecration of Mrs Hammond's grave

16 OCTOBER 2004

The Hall family hold a service at St Peter's Church to rededicate Mrs Hammond's grave.

The vicar of Yoxall, the Rev Jenny Lister, said the ceremony was designed to bring back a sense of peace and sanctity to the churchyard.

Bomb threat letter
The Halls were hit by a systematic campaign of intimidation
The bishop of Wolverhampton, the Rt Revd Michael Bourke, blesses the graveyard and a flower is placed on each grave.

"What has happened this week was a shocking and repulsive attack on all that the churchyard stands for as a holy place," he tells the congregation.

"But it does not and cannot disturb the repose of the souls of those whose resting place has been disturbed."

18 OCTOBER 2004

The Hall family receive threatening letters from someone who claims to have the remains of Mrs Hammond.

Staffordshire Police confirm that they are investigating but say they cannot verify the letter.

20 OCTOBER 2004

Animal rights campaigners are asked to stop protests outside Darley Oaks Farm.

Three days later police praise campaigners after calling off one protests but call again for them to stay away from Darley Oaks Farm.

2 DECEMBER 2004

The Halls and residents of seven villages nearby go to court in a bid to have a large exclusion zone imposed around the area which would prevent animal rights activists from entering.

But their bid fails and instead, the judge grants a zone of 100 yards around the farm and the homes of the owners' relatives.

17 JANUARY 2005

The Halls come to a partial agreement with animal rights protestors.

A High Court judge is told some of the protestors agree to demonstrations outside the farm being limited in time, frequency and the number of protestors.

The court hears arguments for a wider exclusion zone to be imposed in the area.

11 MARCH 2005

A petrol bomb and deaths threats are delivered to the Hall family and staff at Darley Oaks Farm.

Several of the farm workers also receive threatening letters, forcing some to cease their employment at the farm.

17 MARCH 2005

High Court judge, Mr Justice Owen, refuses to impose a 27 square mile (75 sq km) "no-go" zone against animal rights activists.

But he says protesters had conducted a "guerrilla campaign of terrorism" and says a zone may be imposed if orders to regulate protests are breached.

APRIL 2005

Forensic experts examine letters, claiming to be from animal rights extremists, which offer to reveal the location Mrs Hammond's body.

A group calling itself the Animal Rights Militia write to say part of Mrs Hammond's body was buried locally. The letters also contain death threats against family members and friends.

Damaged sign
Signs of Newchurch itself were also targeted

The letter states that a relative or friend of the Hall family will be killed if the farm continues breeding guinea pigs.

The group also sends letters to the BBC and the Burton Mail newspaper claiming one sixth of Mrs Hammond's remains are buried in a sealed plastic container 2ft underground in nearby woods.

Police appeal to group on the BBC's Crimewatch programme to prove their claims by revealing the exact location where the remains are buried.

18 MAY 2005

Officers investigating the desecration of Mrs Hammond's grave resume their search of woodlands where animal rights extremists claim to have buried her.

Around 100 officers begin searching Brakenhurst Wood in Newchurch.

Three days later, the search ends without the body being found.

23 AUGUST 2005

The Hall family announce they are to stop breeding guinea pigs for medical research after years of intimidation by animal rights activists.

The family said they hoped the decision would prompt the return of the body of Mrs Hammond.

Since Mrs Hammond's remains were taken, police have arrested several people in connection with the theft but no-one to date has been charged and the remains have never been found.

20 JANUARY 2006

Darley Oaks Farm officially closes and the Hall family again call for the return of Gladys Hammond's body.

APRIL 2006

Four people admit conspiracy to blackmail over the grave desecration.

They are Jon Ablewhite, of Hawley St, Levenshulme, Manchester, Kerry Whitburn, of Summer Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, John Smith, of Leicester Street, Wolverhampton, and Josephine Mayo, 38, of Springbank Rd, Edgbaston, Birmingham.

MAY 2006

Police discover the remains of Gladys Hammond in woodland on Cannock Chase following a tip-off.


RELATED BBC LINKS:


PRODUCTS AND SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific