Farmer paid £9k by officer after Tesco blackmail attempt


This is the moment a farmer was pictured in a Tesco branch where he is accused of planting a jar of Heinz baby food laced with fragments of metal as part of a plot to blackmail the supermarket chain for £1.4 million in bitcoin. 

Two mothers spotted sharp fragments while feeding their infants after Nigel Wright, 45, planted tampered jars of Heinz and Cow & Gate in branches across the UK, jurors heard.

The married father-of-two allegedly threatened to poison tins of food with cyanide and salmonella unless the supermarket giant sent him £1.5m via bitcoin.

The jar of Heinz baby food that was allegedly laced with fragments of a craft knife by Nigel Wright

The court was shown CCTV footage of Nigel Wright in a Tesco branch in Lockerbie, the same branch one mother purchased Heinz baby food and found metal fragments inside

Nigel Wright, 45, is on trial at the Old Bailey for allegedly trying to extort nearly £1.5 million in bitcoin from the supermarket chain because he was angry at being underpaid for milk

Nigel Wright, 45, is on trial at the Old Bailey for allegedly trying to extort nearly £1.5 million in bitcoin from the supermarket chain because he was angry at being underpaid for milk 

Mother ‘felt sick’ after finding a craft knife blade in baby food jar during feed, court told

Morven Smith, from Lockerbie, had already fed a few spoonfuls of Heinz sweet and sour chicken to her baby when she spotted the shard of metal in the bowl in December 2019.

In a statement, Mrs Smith said she had microwaved half of the jar of baby food in a bowl and put the rest of the jar back in the fridge.

‘I took the bowl out of the microwave – I gave my son a couple of spoonfuls and noticed something shiny – I pulled it out with my fingers at that point.

‘It was horrendous. I felt sick I was so shocked.’

Mrs Smith said her husband found a second blade stuck at the bottom of the jar.

She said at first she had only planned to contact Heinz and Tesco, saying: ‘I didn’t think someone might have done this on purpose.’

It was only when she was wrapping the jar and the blades in a freezer bag that she noticed someone had drawn a circle with a cross through it on the bottom of the product.

‘I felt sick when I first saw this,’ she said.

‘I knew at this point the jar had been marked and someone had done it on purpose.’

Tesco issued a national product recall of all its Heinz baby food and emailed all its Clubcard customers warning them of the risk.

He sent a chain of menacing emails to an undercover policeman who he believed to be a company employee demanding a ‘test deposit,’ it was said.

The officer posed as a worker named Sam Scott and transferred Wright one unit of the cryptocurrency – approximately £8,804 – into an online bank account, jurors heard.

The force had sent him a total of £100,000 worth of bitcoin by the end of their undercover operation, jurors heard. 

He claimed to have left six contaminated jars of Cow & Gate on the shelves prompting a nationwide recall and the removal of 140,000 products from stores, it was said.

Prosecutor Julian Christopher QC told the Old Bailey today: ‘Just over one bitcoin was sent to the address [he set up] on 20 January.’

Reading excerpts of emails allegedly sent by Wright, the prosecutor said: ‘Dear Sam, we have been polite and courteous as we recognise you’re just an employee who goes home at the end of the day* We say you pay us then we will email you.

‘It appears we both failed to do what we said we would. If you set up a bank account you can purchase bitcoin and transfer them into our account.

‘As a goodwill gesture we will tell you you have eight jars of Cow & Gate baby food left on your supermarket shelves on Tuesday 21 and Wednesday 22 [January] there were only six jars left so only six potential dead babies.’

Mr Christopher said: ‘One bitcoin was transferred on 20 January.

‘It appears Mr Wright is not aware at this moment that one bitcoin had been transferred.

‘As a result of that email Tesco removed 140,000 jars of Cow & Gate baby food from its shelves and put out a full product recall.’

The undercover officer, posing as an employee, allegedly replied: ‘I’m desperately worried about what you’ve done. Please extend your goodwill and tell me where you have placed those jars so we can stop anybody getting hurt.

‘I put a test deposit in your account.’

The court has heard Wright had claimed to be one of a group of dairy farmers calling themselves ‘Guy Brush and the Dairy Pirates + Tinkerbell the naughty fairy’ who felt they had been underpaid by Tesco.

He told the company he would reveal the location of the deadly jars in exchange for £1.5m in the cryptocurrency, jurors heard.

The farmer accepts he had sent the threats but claimed he did so under duress from travellers who visited his caravan and told him they would kill his children and rape his wife. 

Nigel Wright, 45, in a Tesco store in Lockerbie where he is accused of planting a jar of Heinz baby food laced with fragments of a craft knife as part of a plot to blackmail the company

Nigel Wright, 45, in a Tesco store in Lockerbie where he is accused of planting a jar of Heinz baby food laced with fragments of a craft knife as part of a plot to blackmail the company

Wright, from Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, denies four counts of blackmail and two counts of contaminating goods at the Old Bailey where a trial is expected to last three weeks

Wright, from Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, denies four counts of blackmail and two counts of contaminating goods at the Old Bailey where a trial is expected to last three weeks

MOTHER ALMOST FED NINE-MONTH-OLD BABY SHARDS OF METAL, COURT TOLD 

A mother wept as she told the court how she found ‘shredded chippings’ of metal in a can of Heinz baby food she was about to feed her infant daughter.

Harpreet Kaur Singh, from Rochdale, appeared via video-link today and explained how she discovered the fragments in products at some point before 16 December last year.

The mother said she had been preparing a can of Heinz Sunday Chicken Dinner for her nine-month-old baby girl when she spotted shards inside it and threw it in the bin.

She contacted Tesco after receiving a letter from them warning customers that a contaminated product had been found in one of their stores.

The nationwide recall rang ‘alarm bells’ with Ms Kaur Singh after she found metal in yet another tin of Heinz baby food a few days later, it was said. 

Giving evidence at Nigel Wright’s blackmail trial, Ms Kaur Singh wiped away tears with a tissue as she relived the traumatic experience.

‘Did that letter ring any alarm bells with you?’ Mr Christopher asked.

‘Yes it did,’ Ms Kaur Singh said.

‘Just before that I opened a jar of Heinz food, Chicken Sunday Dinner, for my little daughter.

‘I put it into a bowl and when I went to microwave it there was a metal chipping in there and at first I didn’t think anything of it. I binned it.

‘But then [on a separate occasion] I opened a second jar, Heinz Cheese and Tomato Pasta Stars.

‘Again I saw the metal chippings inside it.

‘I called my husband and said can you come and have a look at this and he said it’s metal chippings, bin it all, so I binned all the food.’

Asked when she found the first contaminated tin, Ms Kaur Singh said: ‘Before 16 December 2019 because on 16 December my son passed away. After that date we didn’t eat meat in the house out of respect for my son’s death.’

‘So this being the Sunday Chicken Dinner, it must have been some time before 16 December?’ Mr Christopher asked.

‘Yes,’ the mother replied.

Metal was discovered in cans of Heinz baby food sold at stores in Lockerbie and Rochdale in November and December 2019, it was said. 

Wright told officers upon arrest that he had been held at knife-point by travellers threatening to rape his wife and kill his children unless he paid them £1m, it was said. 

He accepted sending blackmail letters to Tesco in his police interview after he was traced back to his caravan and stopped at a nearby Toyota garage on 25 February. 

The farmer claimed he had been visited by a group of travellers who held a blade to his throat and ordered him to pay them money, jurors heard.

But prosecutor Julian Christopher QC said his story failed to explain the apparent ‘delight’ he took in drafting the horrific letters. 

The court heard officers found Wright in possession of papers linked to the bitcoin account which police used to recover all 13.9 bitcoin transferred by the undercover officer, worth approximately £100,000 

Police also found the Toyota laptop and phone which had been used to view Sam Scott’s final email and which had been used to take a screenshot of the bitcoin wallet.

There was also a part used pack of envelopes which matched many of those used to send blackmail letters to the various Tesco stores, the court heard. 

Wright allegedly complained that he had been subjected to a ‘horrendous’ ordeal by travellers demanding money from him, it was said.

Mr Christopher said: ‘In summary, his account was as follows: he accepted that prior to the interview he had told officers ‘I’ve been threatened and my family for a year’, and ‘It’s horrendous what’s been going on, I’ve hated it’. 

The prosecutor said Wright described reporting an incident where the travellers pulled him over on the A46 but didn’t take it further out of fear of reprisals.

He continued: ‘Thereafter some travellers had come to his farm and told him that because he had caused them trouble he had to get them half a million pounds.’

Wright told officers he was given the laptop and an email address to contact Tesco an threaten to contaminate baby food.

Mr Christopher said: ‘Without giving specifics of individual occasions, he said that he had been threatened with a hunting knife, and the men had threatened to rape his wife and kill him and his children; they had increased the amount of money they were demanding to £1million, and he had been acting in fear for his life. 

‘The prosecution allege that the entire account of being compelled to commit these offences because he was being threatened by travellers is untrue, and that the reason that the details have changed is because the fiction has had to be adapted to fit the evidence as it emerges.’

Wright, of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, denies four counts of blackmail and two counts of contaminating goods.

In a separate charge of blackmail Wright is accused of demanding £150,000 worth of bitcoin from a driver with whom he had a road rage altercation. 

The trial, which is expected to last for three weeks, continues. 

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