Farmer found guilty of baby food blackmail plot

Farmer found guilty of baby food blackmail plot

Farmer found guilty of baby food blackmail plot

A Lincolnshire farmer has today (Thursday) been convicted of blackmailing a supermarket and contaminating baby food after a nine-day trial at the Old Bailey in London.

Nigel Wright (45) of Pine Meadows, Caistor Road, Market Rasen, denied the charges but was unanimously found guilty by a jury.

He had demanded £1.5 million from Tesco.

Wright was remanded back into custody for sentencing on Monday, September 28, after a jury found him guilty of three counts of blackmail and two counts of product contamination. The case involved three victim companies – Tesco, Heinz and Cow & Gate.

The judge warned Wright that he faced a lengthy custodial sentence, telling him that punishments for these types of offences ranged from between eight and 17 years in prison.

Wright was also convicted of an unrelated offence of blackmail linked to a traffic dispute.

He was arrested in February following a major investigation that stretched across the country.

Jurors were told he sent dozens of letters and emails to the supermarket giant between May 2018 and February 2020 and demanded the money was paid via the online currency Bitcoin.

Wright was captured on CCTV placing one of the contaminated jars on the shelf of a Tesco supermarket in Lockerbie.

Morven Smith, who is from the Scottish town, told the court she was feeding her baby when she spotted the shard of metal in the bowl. “I gave my son a couple of spoonfuls and noticed something shiny,” she said. “It was horrendous. I felt sick I was so shocked.”

When police raided his sheep farm they found photographs of contaminated baby food and draft blackmail notes on his laptop.

One note read: “Imagine a baby’s mouth cut open and blood pouring out, or the inside of their bellies cut and bleeding. You pay, you save them.”

The farmer admitted placing a jar of Heinz baby food on a shelf in a store in Lockerbie, but claimed he was forced into it by travellers who threatened to kill him and his family, the court heard.

The discovery of the jar in Scotland prompted Tesco to issue a product recall. In total 42,000 jars of baby food were recovered but there was no evidence that further jars had been tampered with.

Operation Hancock was the largest blackmail inquiry ever conducted in the UK and was led by Hertfordshire Assistant Chief Constable Bill Jephson, who said: “Through the determined efforts of so many dedicated professionals, a dangerous offender is now facing the justice he deserves.”

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