A sheep farmer was found guilty of blackmailing Tesco for £ 1.5 million after lacing jars of baby food with razor-sharp shards of metal.
Two mothers found the fragments while feeding their children after 45-year-old Nigel Wright began his two-year campaign in spring 2018.
The married father of two, now in prison for up to 14 years, threatened to inject cyanide and salmonella into fruit cans unless the supermarket giant turned over the money in bitcoin.
Wright signed his Guy Brush & the Milk Pirates + Tinkerbell the Naughty Fairy emails and letters claiming he represented dairy farmers who had been underpaid by Tesco.
Because of the threats, it sparked two nationwide recalls for Cow & Gate and Heinz baby food, and prompted the supermarket to move 140,000 items off the shelves.
A detective posing as a Tesco employee named Sam Scott handing over £ 100,000 in cryptocurrency to catch the blackmailer.
Wright was caught buying wine and flowers for his wife on CCTV after placing a contaminated glass on the shelves of a Lockerbie store on November 29 last year.
He also put two jars of contaminated food on the shelves of a Rochdale store.
Scottish mother Morven Smith "felt sick" when she discovered the broken pieces in a jar of Heinz sweet and sour chicken that her ten month old son was eating.
Mrs. Smith from Lockerbie had already fed her baby a couple of spoons when she discovered a shard of metal in the bowl in December 2019.
She said, “I took the bowl out of the microwave – I gave my son a couple of spoons and noticed something shiny – I pulled it out with my fingers at this point.
& # 39; It was awful. I felt sick, I was so shocked. & # 39;
Her husband found a second piece of metal at the bottom of the glass.
The incident resulted in a nationwide recall of 42,000 doses of the product.
A second mother, Harpreet Kaur Singh, found "crushed metal shavings" in glasses with Heinz Sunday Chicken Dinner and cheese and tomato noodle stars.
She cried when she told the court how far she was from feeding her nine-month-old daughter.
“I put it in a bowl and when I went into the microwave there was a metal gap and at first I didn't think anything about it. I've bundled it up, ”said the mother.
But then (on another occasion) I opened a second jar, Heinz Cheese and Tomato Pasta Stars.
"Again I saw the metal shavings in it."
Prosecutor Julian Christopher, QC, said the blackmailer was "pleased" with his extravagant plot to outsmart the supermarket giant.
He believed he could "get rich" without leaving any traces of his identity by using the Bitcoin cryptocurrency and downloading the Tor browser, which enabled anonymous communication.
But his emails and letters were forwarded to the police and he was soon inadvertently interacting with an undercover officer.
A draft email to Tesco was found on one of Wright's devices after his property was searched.
The threat read, "Imagine a baby's mouth cuts out blood and the inside of his stomach cuts and bleeds."
Reading excerpts from Wright's emails, the prosecutor said, “Dear Sam, we have been courteous and courteous as we recognize that you are just an employee who goes home at the end of the day. We say you pay us, then we will email you.
“It seems that neither of us did what we promised. When you set up a bank account, you can buy Bitcoin and transfer it to our account.
"As a gesture of goodwill, we will tell you that on Tuesday January 21 and Wednesday January 22 (January) you still have eight jars of Cow & Gate baby food on your supermarket shelves. There were only six jars left, so only six potential dead babies. "
Wright admitted sending the emails and letters to Tesco asking for the money, but told jury that he was forced to do so by a gang of gypsies.
He claimed the travelers came to his farm and threatened to kill his children and rape his wife unless he paid them £ 500,000.
When asked why he ordered the company to pay him three times that amount, Wright said, "I saw somewhere that ransom money is never paid in full, only half."
He said he received the contaminated glasses from one of his suspected dealers who followed him to the Lockerbie store in a BMW to make sure he carried out their orders.
However, he admitted that his threats to the company were inspired by his own research, watching documentaries, and searching for ideas on Google.
The farmer told jury that he had also experimented with tampering with glasses himself, while claiming that he only did so because he was "curious" to see if his threats were "inactive".
When asked why he hadn't told the police about the travelers, Wright said, "I've been to the police in the past and they've let me down."
He complained that the stress of the blackmail campaign brought him into marriage counseling with his spouse as an elementary school teacher.
In tears, Wright said to the jury, “My wife would have been really scared.
“If I had told her she would probably have gone to the police and I would have gotten into trouble.
“I was nervous the whole time.
"I should never have interfered and gone to the police."
But an Old Bailey jury today (Thursday) rejected the report, convicting it of two cases of contaminating goods and four cases of extortion.
One of the blackmail allegations related to a separate chain of threats he sent to a driver after a traffic altercation in the spring of 2018.
He posted a photo of John Winter's face with bullet holes and the words "450 yards" – an obvious indication of the distance from which he shot the target.
Wright stood in silence as the convictions were announced.
Wright of Pine Meadows, Caistor Road, Market Rasen, Lincs denied two cases of contaminating goods and four cases of extortion.
The maximum duration for extortion is 14 years, while the maximum for contaminating goods is 10 years.
He was placed in pre-trial detention prior to the sentencing at a time to be determined after the reports were drawn up.
(tagsToTranslate) Dailymail (t) Messages (t) Tesco