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Activists found guilty of blackmailing firms.

Byline: LESLEY RICHARDSON

Four animals rights activists were found guilty of blackmailing companies who supplied Huntingdon Life Sciences.

Gerrah Selby, 20, Daniel Wadham, 21, Gavin Medd-Hall, 45, Heather Nicholson, 41, and Trevor Holmes, 51, were alleged to have orchestrated the campaign which ran between 2001 and 2007, Winchester Crown Court heard.

All five denied conspiracy to blackmail but Selby, Wadham, Medd-Hall and Nicholson were found guilty yesterday. Holmes, from Newcastle-upon-Tyne, was cleared of the charge. One of the jurors refused to be seen in court while the verdict was announced after 33 hours and 48 minutes of deliberation.

Sentencing will take place on January 19 at Winchester Crown Court.

Selby, Wadham and Medd-Hall were released on conditional bail, while Nicholson was remanded in custody.

Three other people - Gregg Avery, Natasha Avery and Daniel Amos-have pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail.

The hierarchy of the group called Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac) used threats such as claiming that managers of the companies were paedophiles, hoax bombs parcels, criminal damage and threatening telephone calls to force them to cut links with the animal testing company.

The aim was to target suppliers or any company with a secondary link with Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), based in Cambridge.

One of the features of intimidation included sending used sanitary towels in the post, saying they were contaminated with the Aids virus, and personal campaigns against the management of companies including daubing roads outside their homes with words like "Puppy Killer".

Nicholson, from Eversley in Hampshire, was a founder member of Shac, who managed the "menacing" campaigns against the firms who were named on the group's website.

The blackmail would only stop when they put out a "capitulation statement" to Shac saying they would not supply HLS, which conducts animal testing for the pharmaceutical industry, the court was told.

Medd-Hall, from Croydon in south London, was a computer and research expert high up in Shac who uncovered company links with HLS.

Wadham, from Bromley, south-east London, and Selby, from Chiswick in west London, were both regulars at demonstrations against the firms and HLS.

Detective Chief Inspector Andy Robbins, senior investigating officer of Kent Police, said outside court: "Today's verdict reflects the continuing commitment of law enforcement and the Crown Prosecution Service to bring to justice those who seek to repress reasonable discussion and who commit serious offences in the name of animal rights.
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Dec 24, 2008
Words:397
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