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Last Updated: Friday, 5 September, 2003, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Schoolboy sent prince 'ricin' letter
Prince William
Prince William was among scores of people targeted
A schoolboy sparked off a UK-wide terror scare by sending a letter claiming to contain the deadly poison ricin to Prince William, a court has heard.

Paul Smith,17, also sent a bottle of complimentary aromatherapy oil face rub laced with caustic soda to Cherie Blair at 10 Downing Street.

The High Court in Glasgow heard there was a massive security scare across Britain after a flood of letters, some also said to contain anthrax, landed on the desks various officials.

Among those receiving packages were the Scottish Parliament, the House of Commons, various police forces and local authority offices, top hotels, and senior officials at St Andrew's University.

Kevin McCallum, prosecuting, told the judge, Lord Kingarth, of the fear and terror of some victims who breathed in powder which they thought was either anthrax or ricin.

Buildings evacuated

Scores of people had to be decontaminated and buildings evacuated.

The scheme was a hoax invented by a man, whose identity was not given in court, who sent the instructions via email to Smith, a pupil at Dumbarton Academy.

One letter to Prince William said it contained ricin, the world's most deadly toxin, adding: "If you smell or touch it you will die."

Another one sent to the St Andrews Univerity art and history department where the prince is studying contained a skull and crossbones with a message which read: "By the time you read this letter you will not be able to breath and will be suffering respiratory failure."

This person had instigated a campaign directed against His Royal Highness Prince William and his attendance at the Scottish university
Kevin McCallum
Mr McCallum told how terrified people who had come into contact with the letters were placed in isolation and underwent decontamination.

The powders were found to be harmless, but in some cases people did not know this for days.

Smith, of 18 High Mains Avenue, Dumbarton, admitted sending a total of eight anthrax letters and 36 ricin letters between August 20, 2001, and February 7, 2002 and committing a breach of the peace.

He pleaded guilty to preparing and transmitting the letters whereby the powder inside was deposited and inhaled by people opening them, all to their fear and alarm.

Smith also admitted sending two packages to Cherie Blair and Margaret Ashcroft, treasurer of the West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine Liberal Democrat constituency party in February last year.

Smith, who was only 16 at the time, was arrested after analysis of computer material revealed significant e-mail traffic between him and another person.

He accepted he was recruited by an older person on the internet.

Mr McCallum said: "This person had instigated a campaign directed against His Royal Highness Prince William and his attendance at the Scottish university."

Sentence was deferred for background reports.

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