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Forgive me, says baby food poisoner as he goes free; Ex-policeman in evil blackmail plot gets out eight years early.

THE evil ex-policeman who poisoned jars of baby food in a vicious campaign of blackmail and terror says he wants his victims to forgive him.

Ten years ago Rodney Whitchelo put five babies in hospital after spiking jars of their food with caustic acid and broken razor blades in a ruthless plan to extort pounds 4million from food giants Heinz and Pedigree.

Now aged 50, his hair turned snow-white after nine years behind bars, it has now been revealed that the former police sergeant secretly left prison three months ago - eight years early.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Mirror Whitchelo said: "I think I have atoned.

"I would condemn anyone who commits such crimes. It is dreadfully upsetting and I am very, very, sorry.

"How do you apologise to a nation?"

But Whitchelo's attempt to distance himself from his crimes angered the mother of one of his tiny victims. After being told of his early release, she branded him "evil and arrogant".

Whitchelo was sentenced to 17 years at the Old Bailey in 1990 where Judge Nina Lowry told him: "Your blackmail letters show the evil side of your nature."

Throughout the three-month long trial Whitchelo refused to admit his guilt, arrogantly claiming he was "set up" by fellow police officers.

In fact, he had plotted his vicious campaign while serving in the Regional Crime Squad.

He would buy jars of baby food and spike them before returning them to the shelves. Horrified detectives discovered one jar of Heinz cauliflower baby food contained enough poison to kill 27 children. Whitchelo was finally caught after a nationwide police investigation costing pounds 3 million in which more than 200 officers watched cashpoints throughout Britain. He had managed to net just pounds 32,000.

Speaking from the house in Hornchurch, Essex, where he lives with his elderly mother May, Whitchelo is still at a loss to explain why he did it. "I have tried to answer what possessed me to the authorities," he said.

"It happened, I was convicted, I have served my time and paid my dues. I want to carry on with an ordinary life."

Asked how we could be sure he wouldn't commit a similar crime, Whitchelo said: "How can you demonstrate that?

"You can only do it through behaviour. I know I am not going to do anything like that, but my saying so doesn't necessarily satisfy the public."

Whitchelo added: "I am trying to lead an honest life. I have my own computer firm and I'm trying to avoid any publicity."

But Helen Coppock is furious that he has been released early. Her daughter Victoria was just nine months old when she was rushed to hospital after eating food laced with hundreds of razor blade fragments.

"He is an evil man," Helen said at her home near Oxford. "Anyone who can sit at home and cut up a razor blade, coldly knowing that it will cut a baby, is warped.

"I don't expect he has got any remorse whatsoever. He was an arrogant man who looked at me like I was a piece of dirt during the trial.

"Even though he is now free, I would not like to meet him. But after 10 years, the anger has gone. I wouldn't be frightened of him.

"I just wouldn't want to give him the satisfaction of knowing how much he had got to me."
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Author:Pisa, Nick; Morgan, Gareth
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 22, 1998
Words:565
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