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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
Villages try to 'pull together'
By Caroline Gall
BBC News

Gladys Hammond's grave
Purple flowers indicate where Mrs Hammond's grave once was
Three picturesque villages in the Staffordshire countryside are the unlikely backdrop for an animal rights extremist campaign.

There are no tell-tale signs such as sprawling scientific laboratories that are often the focus for protests.

But the quiet villages of Yoxall, Newchurch and Newborough were the scene of one of the most high-profile campaigns undertaken by the activists.

Those against the breeding of guinea pigs for medical research at Darley Oaks Farms in Newchurch used tactics of terror.

They targeted employees and friends of the owners who lived in the two neighbouring villages forcing many to move away.

The Reverend Jenny Lister, the rector at St Peter's Church in Yoxall where Gladys Hammond's grave was disturbed in 2004, said the desecration forced villagers to "pull together".

"People are very angry that Yoxall has this name that is known in America and Australia and France," she said.

Rev Jenny Lister
There was a huge sense of grief, loss and anger in the village
The Rev Jenny Lister
"I think people have pulled together more. One man told me he had been here for 25 years and he had not realised how much the village meant to him until the desecration happened."

At the height of the terror campaign, homes were targeted and a local pub, forcing the licensees to leave.

And, as the campaign continued, farm employees and associates were forced to decide whether to sever ties with its owners, the Hall family.

Although the perpetrators, described by a judge as "determined and cold-blooded defenders of their perceived cause" have been convicted, it will be hard for such small villages to get over the deepseated campaign of hatred.

Locals from each of the three villages recall the weekly demonstrations outside the farm, regular tales of peoples' windows being smashed and the circulation of abusive letters about those connected to the farm.

'Service packed'

"It was terrible," said one villager in the Red Lion.

"It went on and on and on, we'll never forget it."

However, the Rev Lister said she believed that with the ending of the court case and the re-dedication of Mrs Hammonds' remains, the healing process could start.

Currently, purple flowers mark the spot where Mrs Hammond's grave once was. But there are plans to return her remains, which were discovered last week in Cannock Chase.

"A week after the desecration we held a service at St Peter's and the church was packed inside and out," said Rev Lister.

"We went out to the cemetery with candles - a symbol of trying to bring light and peace back to the village - and that helped restore the peace.

'Villagers want justice'

"There was a huge sense of grief, loss and anger in the village.

"Mrs Hammond is at peace but her remains need to placed back, decently, and given respect again."

But, asked if the villagers can ever forgive the offenders, she said it was up to those who were most affected.

"It (the court case) cannot put right what has been done but I hope it will bring some sort of justice to what has happened...people want justice for such a horrendous thing, justice for people contemplating such horrendous things.

"It is god who forgives. The people who have been most hurt by this are the people who will be the ones who need to try to seek that, if they can and that's an entirely personal matter for them."

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