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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 September 2005, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Church plea over woman's remains
The Archdeacon of Walsall, the Venerable Bob Jackson
Mr Jackson said he was not asking for the offenders to come forward
A senior Church official has appealed for the return of a woman's remains stolen from her grave during a campaign by animal rights activists.

Gladys Hammond, 82, was related to the owners of Darley Oaks Farm, who said last week they would stop breeding guinea pigs for medical research.

Her remains were taken from a grave in nearby Yoxall, Staffs, in October.

The Archdeacon of Walsall, Bob Jackson, made his plea as 200 activists met in Burton-on-Trent. Four were arrested.

They were gathering to celebrate the news that guinea pig breeding at the farm is to cease.

Staffordshire Police arrested four protesters and a local youth for public order and assault offences, but officers said the event passed off largely peacefully.

Mrs Hammond's body was taken from her grave in St Peter's churchyard in Yoxall on 6 or 7 October 2004, seven years after she was buried there.

Just try and imagine what it must be like if that happened to your family
The Venerable Bob Jackson

Standing over Mrs Hammond's empty grave, Mr Jackson, said: "We do not know who did it and I cannot, myself, get inside the head of someone who would do such a thing.

"I am not asking them to give themselves up, I am asking on behalf of the family and community, please let her remains come back to this church.

"Just try and imagine what it must be like if that happened to your family."

The animal rights supporters gathered in Burton town centre on Saturday lunchtime for what was called a "victory" celebration.

Gladys Hammond
Gladys Hammond's body has been missing for nearly a year

They included a man who was originally arrested in connection with the theft of the remains.

Jon Ablewhite, from Wolverhampton, who also goes by the name Holmes, is believed to be the leader of the Stop The Newchurch Guinea Pigs (SNGP).

The supply teacher refused to answer any questions but addressed the rally, saying: "When I am invited back into the classroom to teach... which I will... I will teach children about animal rights and veganism."

SNGP spokeswoman Amanda Richards said its members were "horrified" at the body theft.

"As far as we know we still don't know if it was animal rights behind it.

"There are reports that it was done to discredit the animal rights movement."

Also at the event was activist John Curtin, from Coventry, who was jailed in the 1980s for attempting to desecrate the Duke of Beaufort's grave in an animal rights protest.

Death threats

The 42-year-old described the grave robbers as "despicable" and called for Mrs Hammond's remains to be returned.

He said: "I just hope there is some resolution to it. I feel disgusted and ashamed that somebody may have done a copycat thing."

Mr Curtin was initially arrested over the theft of Mrs Hammond's remains but, like Mr Ablewhite, was later released without charge.

Mrs Hammond was the mother-in-law of Christopher Hall, who owns Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch with his brother John.

The Hall family's decision on the farm's future was announced on 23 August after a six-year campaign of abuse.

They and others connected with the farm have received death threats, hate mail, malicious phone calls, hoax bombs and arson attacks.

They said they hoped the decision, which comes after 30 years of guinea pig breeding at the farm, would prompt the return of Mrs Hammond's body.

Protests go on at guinea pig farm
25 Aug 05 |  Staffordshire
Targeted guinea pig farm closes
23 Aug 05 |  Staffordshire
In pictures: Protest in Newchurch
23 Aug 05 |  In Pictures
Timeline: Farm under siege
23 Aug 05 |  Staffordshire
The siege of Darley Oaks Farm
25 Jul 05 |  Business


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