Lincolnshire farmer ‘blackmailed Tesco by putting shards of metal into baby food’

A farmer from Lincolnshire launched a blackmail campaign against Tesco by putting shards of metal into baby food, a court heard today. Officials heard Nigel Wright from Market Rasen also sent letters threatening to inject salmonella into tins of food. The 45-year-old is accused of demanding around ?1.5million in Bitcoin by sending letters to the supermarket giant in order for him to reveal what goods had been contaminated.

Wright is alleged to have placed bits of metal in jars of baby food and put them on shelves of stores in Rockdale and Lockerbie in Scotland. Two mums later discovered tiny metal objects in baby food they were about to give to their children, the court heard.

Read More
Related Articles
Read More
Related Articles

Wright is also accused of threatening a motorist, John Winter, who he had an altercation with in a road rage incident, again demanding Bitcoin or he would kill members of his family, the court heard. He is charged with four counts of blackmail and two of contaminating food “with menaces” between May 2018 and February this year.

Wright denies the allegations and claims a gang of travellers forced him to carry out the crimes by threatening his own family if he did not pay them around ?1m.

Wright was demanding 100 bitcoin from Tescos

Under the name “Guy Brush” Wright is said to have launched a blackmail campaign by sending letters through the post to many different Tesco stores, the Old Bailey heard. He pretended he was acting with other people, whom he referred to as “the Dairy Pirates”, and later also claimed to have been joined by someone he referred to as “Tinkerbell”, the prosecution alleged. Wright also sent emails claiming that contaminated food had been put on the shelves of numerous Tesco stores, demanding to release the details of the threat only after payment of bitcoin was received, the jury were told.

He threatened to continue the campaign until he was paid, the court heard. Initially the contamination was said to be salmonella injected into cans, but this latter became sharp pieces of metal inserted into jars of baby food, it was alleged.

Read More
Related Articles

Wright allegedly demanded 100 bitcoin from Tesco – now worth around ?750,000 – though this went up to 150, and then to 200 bitcoin, around ?1.5m. He is also alleged to have demanded 10 bitcoin from Mr Winter, which he said would go up to 20 – or roughly ?150,000 – if not paid within a fortnight after their altercation near Newark, Nottinghamshire, in January 2019.

Around last November and December two Tesco customers, shopping in Rochdale and Lockerbie, bought jars of baby food and were said to have found small sharp pieces of metal inside as they were in the process of feeding the contents of the jars to their children, who were both under a year old. The first letter was said to have been received on May 21, 2018, at a Tesco store in Brigg, North Lincolnshire, about a complaint being made on behalf of dairy farmers who felt they were not being paid fairly for their milk. The letter came in a handwritten envelope addressed to “Tesco Store Manager”.

Prosecutors said the tone of the letter “quickly turned threatening”, with a demand for 100 Bitcoin as “compensation for your shortfall” along with a claim that contaminated food had been placed on the shelves – the details of which would only be revealed if and when payment was made.

Read More
Related Articles
Read More
Related Articles

The letter is said to have claimed a “toxic substance” might have been injected through a hole drilled in a can or that sharp objects might have been put into baby food jars. It also contained a warning that other contaminated products would be put in the store and other Tesco stores, “until payment has been made”, the court heard. Four more Tesco stores are said to have received the same letter in December 2018 and around the same time the Tesco Head Office in Welwyn Garden City received a letter in an envelope that also contained some white powder.

Chemical analysis revealed the white powder to be a well-mixed combination of aluminium silicate and lactose powder in roughly equal quantities, both in fact harmless, the court heard. One of the allegations against Wright is that he also made threats against Mr Winter, who he had a brief altercation on the road after refusing to let Mr Winter’s car into a line of traffic.

The farmer has appeared in court for trial

He also allegedly went on to threaten to kill him and members of his family unless he paid some money – again in Bitcoin. Mr Winter admitted to police that he reacted by getting out of his car and then throwing a hairbrush at Wright’s car, hitting the passenger side window.

At first Wright decided to take no further action after reporting the incident to police, but after being arrested over a year later suspicion of the blackmail of Tescos, the defendant was arrested. Wright mentioned that incident and appeared to claim Mr Winter was one of the travellers forcing him to commit the offences, the prosecution said. A few months later, a letter was sent to Mr Winter, threatening to kill him and members of his family if he did not pay him 10 bitcoin.

He also sent him a photograph of Mr Winter, with a target superimposed on it with bullet holes through the paper, the prosecution said. Wright denies he has anything to do this placing the jars on the Tesco shelves or contaminating them. At the defendants’ Lincolnshire home, where he lives with his wife and two children, his family keep 120 sheep on their land, where a bungalow is also being built and is described as a “small scale farmer”.

Read More
Related Articles
Read More
Related Articles

Julian Christopher QC, prosecuting, said: “To begin with his letters claimed that he had injected salmonella into tins of food.

“Later he sent some white powder in an envelope, saying that it was a homemade chemical of which he had over 300g which would be used to contaminate more products if he was not paid. “And then he moved on to threatening to put pieces of metal into jars of baby food. “There is no evidence that he did actually inject any salmonella, or make use of the white powder, but the prosecution do allege that he did indeed contaminate some jars of baby food with sharp pieces of metal and that the jars were bought by two different mothers from two different locations, each of whom discovered the metal as she was feeding the food to her child.

“He [Wright] stated that a dremel drill had been used to create a small hole in cans containing fruit, and bacteria had been injected, and the suggestion was that the cans had then been placed in stores in Hull, York and Scunthorpe – all places large enough to be likely to have a number of Tesco stores . “‘Guy Brush and the Dairy Pirates’ threatened to move on to using prussic acid as a contaminant.”

The court heard the farmer threatened to contaminate food

Mr Christopher also told the jury Wright admits he sent the threatening letters to Tesco, but was forced to do so by a group of Travellers who said they could kill his children and rape his wife. He added: “He [Wright] says, that he was compelled to do so by some travellers who had visited his farm and threatened to kill him and his children, and to rape his wife, if he did not give them ?500,000, which they later increased to ?1 million.

“He accepts sending all the threatening letters and emails to Tescos in which the blackmail demands were made. “He denies this he says that the travellers who were threatening to kill him gave him this jar, already contaminated, along with several others which he threw away, and that he did not realise how small, and so difficult to see, the pieces of metal inside it were. “The prosecution suggests this is a story he concocted and is untrue.”

Read More
Related Articles
Read More
Related Articles

One letter called on Tesco to pay dairy farmers more for their milk and give them “compensation”, the court heard.

He also used aliases such as Russ, in collaboration Andy, Mark and Carla to make it look as though the threats were coming from a gang of conspirators, the trial heard. Mr Christopher added that two of these names may have been used because they were local council planning officers who turned down his application for bungalow on his land in 2013. He told the jury: “He appears to enjoy the use of these different identities.”

Tesco called the police when the first letter arrived and undercover officers pretended to be Tesco employees and transferred 13.9 bitcoin into two different cryptocurrency wallets used by the defendant. When Wright was arrested he had a piece of paper on him with details of how to access the bitcoin that had been transferred during the undercover operation. And in his Toyota Hilux truck was a mobile phone which contained apps that gave access to an email account linked to the same cryptocurrency wallet, the court heard.

On his laptop were texts to Tesco containing threats to the company, as well as photographs of tins of food and jars of baby food, together with pieces of metal apparently used to contaminate them. These images included one which had been in letters sent to various stores and his handwriting was also linked to the letters, the court heard. A dremel drill was among some tools found at the defendant’s farm when it was searched in February, the court heard.

The case continues.

You may also like...