Old Bailey Jury unanimously convicts farmer of blackmail
A 45-year-old man from Lincolnshire has today, (August 20) been convicted of blackmail and contaminating specific ranges of baby food following a nine-day trial at The Old Bailey.
Nigel 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. Wright was also convicted of an unrelated offence of blackmail linked to a traffic dispute.
He was arrested on February 25 2020, following a major investigation led by the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Hertfordshire Major Crime Unit who were assisted by law enforcement partners including the National Crime Agency together with the victim companies.
Stretching across the country, the investigation was also supported by specialist government departments – The Food Standards Agency, Food Standards Scotland, Public Health England, Public Health Scotland and Police Scotland.
Operation Hancock, has been the largest blackmail inquiry ever conducted in the UK and was led by Hertfordshire Assistant Chief Constable Bill Jephson, who said: ‘Throughout this investigation, our key focus was to safeguard the public and identify the individual or group involved as they clearly had no concern for the impact of their actions.
‘I want to extend my sincere thanks to all those officers, specialist law enforcement units and agencies who gave of their best in what was often a fast-moving and challenging investigation where no stone was left unturned. This was truly a partnership response which also involved close collaboration with the victim companies who were highly responsive and operationally supportive throughout.’
Bill added: ‘Through the determined efforts of so many dedicated professionals, a dangerous offender is now facing the justice he deserves. I hope the conviction of Nigel Wright will serve as a deterrent to anyone who thinks blackmail is a viable criminal option. The resources available to law enforcement to respond to threats of this nature are significant as crimes like this will simply not be tolerated.’
Charles White, who is a Senior Crown Prosecutor in CPS Thames and Chiltern, said: ‘Wright demanded an extraordinary amount of money – and was so determined to secure it that he was prepared to contaminate baby food and place it on a supermarket shelf.
‘It is a testament to the vigilance of parents and the swift action taken by the victim companies, police and other agencies that the public were kept safe.
‘He created an elaborate lie saying that he himself was blackmailed, but it is clear Wright was the only person responsible for potentially putting the public’s safety at risk.
‘From his laptop, to the images he had taken of the contaminated food and the bitcoin access code found when he was arrested, there was a wealth of evidence in this case which proved his guilt to the jury.’