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Exeter politician sent 'crunchy' fake anthrax through the post as part of terror plot

25 Aug 2019, 08:44

https://www.devonlive.com/news/devon-ne ... ke-3243697

"It started crunching when we picked it up and I was aware from that moment it wasn't quite right."

The Deputy Lord Mayor of Exeter has spoken about being the target of a terror plot involving hoax anthrax being sent to her door.

Cllr Yolonda Henson was one of 16 MPs and councillors on the mailing list of Exeter man Richard Hayes.


Hayes, 40, sent packages of white powder to the doors of mainly women politicians between 2011 and 2014.

He has pleaded guilty to 16 offences under the Terrorism and Security Act of sending hoax packages to councillors, MPs, MEPs or Welsh Assembly members.

Some of the letters were marked Anthrax but they actually contained harmless substances such as flour, protein powder or bicarbonate of soda.

The four Exeter councillors were Yolonda Henson, Vanessa Newcombe, Rosie Denham, and Catherine Dawson.

Cllr Henson was targeted on November 1, 2011. She recalled what happened.

"We had been warned there was some white powder going round and were told to be vigilent. To be perfectly honest you think it is never going to happen to you, then of course it does.

"The envelope arrived in the post and it had another envelope inside. It started crunching when we picked it up and I was aware from that moment it wasn't quite right."

She said some of the powder started to fall out and she immediately called police.

"I was aware of not touching it as it might have possible fingerprints. Some of it did spill out. The police were round here quickly. It wasn't a heavy response or anything just two people. It did cross my mind that it might be something dangerous but I wasn't worried. It happened such a long time ago now that it's difficult to recall the detail."

"I'm thankful for whoever forewarned us in the council and also police for their response."

Former Exeter councillors Rosie Denham was also a target in March 2012.

She said: "I received an envelope containing a white powder through the post. By that point I was already aware that other Exeter councillors has received similar envelopes and I recognised their description of it, so I didn’t actually open it. I reported it immediately to the police, who were extremely helpful and I’m grateful for all their efforts to identify the individual responsible.

"I think it said Anthrax on the inside. Luckily I already knew it was unlikely to be harmful, from some of the previous recipients. So I wasn’t too concerned, but obviously it’s still very unnerving."

The MPs who were sent the substance included Labour's Heidi Alexander, who is now deputy Mayor of London, fellow Labour MPs Helen Jones and Emma Reynolds, Conservatives Nicola Blackwood, Jessica Lee, Chloe Smith, and Rebecca Harris.

Other packages were sent to Liberal Democrat Roger Williams, former MP from Brecon, who shared his office with his wife Kirsty, a member of the Welsh Assembly.

Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford was sent one package, and two were sent to Liberal Democrat candidate Lianne Williams in Didsbury, Manchester.

Hayes, of Marina Drive, Brixham, pleaded guilty to 16 counts under section 11 of the 2001 Anti-Terrorism, Crime, and Security Act of a hoax involving the sending of a white substance which was intended to cause fear of serious harm or death.

The full charge states that he sent a white powder 'intending to induce a belief that it was likely to be or contain a noxious substance or other noxious thing and thereby endanger human life or create a serious risk to health.

Hayes, who was living in Exeter when he sent the substances, appeared at Exeter Crown Court by video link from the city's prison.

Judge Peter Johnson remanded him in custody and ordered psychiatric and probation reports. He adjourned sentence until November, when he will appear before High Court judge Mrs Justice May at Exeter.

He told him: "These are serious matters. You have pleaded guilty and will receive the appropriate credit. Your expectation should be one of a lengthy custodial sentence."

Mr Ed Bailey, defending, said a psychiatric report would help the sentencing judge.


The full list of hoaxes is.

2011.

1. April 18. Roger Williams MP, and Kirsty Williams, WAM.

2. May 27. Lianne Williams, Didsbury, Manchester.

3. June 7. Heidi Alexander MP.

4. June 13. Sorting office.

5. October 12. Lianne Williams (second offence against her).

6. October 12. Baroness Sarah Ludford.

7. November 1. Helen Jones MP, Warrington.

8. November 1. Yolande Henson.

9. November 1. Vanessa Newcombe.

2012.

10. March 27. Rosie Denham.

11. March 27. Catherine Dawson.

12. October 15. Emma Reynolds MP.

13. October 17. Nicola Birchwood MP. (now Baroness Birchwood).


2013.

14. August 21. Jessica Lee MP.


15. August 23. Chloe Smith MP.

2014.

16. April 16. Rebecca Harris MP.

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