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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 May 2006, 15:51 GMT 16:51 UK
'A terrible and sickening crime'
Det Ch Insp Nick Baker
The desecration of a grandmother's grave, in the dead of night, was both shocking and devastating
Det Ch Insp Nick Baker
Police carried out a major inquiry into the campaign against David Hall and Partners and people associated with their guinea pig farm in Newchurch, Staffordshire.

It included 2,114 statements, 698 witness interviews, 3,413 exhibits, more than 100,000 A4 pages of evidence and cost almost 750,000. Det Ch Insp Nick Baker, who led the investigation, tells his story.

My involvement in this investigation began following a phone call to Staffordshire Police from the rector of St Peter's Church on 7 October 2004 to report a terrible, sickening crime.

The pre-planned desecration of a grandmother's grave, in the dead of night, was both shocking and devastating.

It isn't the type of incident you expect to be investigating in 21st Century Britain.

It soon became obvious that Gladys Hammond was targeted purely because of her family links to Chris and John Hall, themselves victims of a lengthy campaign by animal rights extremists.

THE GUILTY BLACKMAILERS
Jon Ablewhite, 36, of Levenshulme, Manchester
John Smith, 39, of Leicester Street, Wolverhampton
Kerry Whitburn, 36, of Edgbaston, Birmingham
Josephine Mayo, 38, of Edgbaston, Birmingham

Mrs Hammond had no involvement at all with the guinea pig breeding business.

This emphasised the callous, despicable nature of the crime and the cold-hearted character of those responsible.

The Halls, their family and employees had been targeted regularly for six years by animal rights extremists under the guise of the Save The Newchurch Guinea Pigs (SNGP) group.

However, the desecration of Mrs Hammond's grave went way beyond any rational understanding of protest. It appalled and disgusted people nationwide, including many animal rights protestors.

'Courage and resilience'

The desecration was not an isolated act but the culmination of a series of callous crimes all committed with one goal in mind - to force the Hall family to stop breeding guinea pigs.

I hope today's sentences provide some comfort and a sense of justice to the individuals and the families who suffered such terrible harassment.

The Hall family displayed courage and resilience to carry on their lawful business for so long

While rarely causing physical harm, these offenders thrived on the fear they created through threats and intimidation.

We are very grateful for the co-operation of the victims who helped our investigation and were prepared to give evidence. This crime didn't just affect them but also the communities in which they lived.

The Hall family displayed courage and resilience to carry on their lawful business for so long and fully assisted our investigation.

Although the grave desecration was a deliberate attempt to thwart the Hall's business, the rest of Mrs Hammond's family - in particular her daughter Janet Palmer - suffered tremendous anguish.



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