Date: 16 November 2007
Jail for animal rights blackmailer
An animal rights extremist who bombarded companies and individuals with threats was today jailed for eight months.
Deborah Morrison dispatched dozens of emails and letters - some containing white powder - during a five-year nationwide campaign. Most of the victims had or have connections with animal research organisations. Many of the messages were signed with the Animal Liberation Front's initials, ALF.
At a hearing last month, the 35-year-old, from Dorchester in Dorset, pleaded guilty to six charges of blackmail and one of attempted blackmail. She also admitted three charges of interference with a contractual relationship, so as to harm an animal research organisation, and two of attempted interference.
Morrison was arrested in August 2006 by Staffordshire Police's Public Order and Protest Unit after she sent threatening emails to a Lichfield-based transport firm, who she wrongly believed had a contract with B & K Universal, a breeder of research animals in Humberside.
Morrison's DNA and fingerprints were added to national databases and her computer was taken for forensic examination. As a result, the investigation widened to include seven other forces - Dorset Police, Sussex Police, the Metropolitan Police Service, Humberside Police, South Yorkshire Police, West Mercia Constabulary and Cambridgeshire Constabulary - and also involved the Association of Chief Police Officers' National Domestic Extremism Team.
Morrison's victims between 2001 and 2006 included:
A Burton veterinary practice used by Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch, which bred guinea pigs for research until 2006. It received threatening letters, one containing white powder, which were linked to Morrison by DNA evidence.
An American bank which provided services to Huntington Life Sciences. Two of its London staff received threatening letters, linked to Morrison by DNA, at their family homes. One said "Expect a visit. Or a car bomb".
Three businesses and a primary care trust linked to Sequani Ltd, a Herefordshire-based drug research company, which were sent threatening letters or emails by Morrison. Two letters, one linked to Morrison by handwriting analysis and the other by DNA, contained white powder.
Inspector David Bird, head of the Public Order and Protest Unit, said: "Morrison sustained a widespread campaign of intimidation over several years. She sought to cause financial loss to companies engaged in lawful business, and caused genuine fear for dozens of staff and their families. The use of white powder was sinister and led to at least one person going to hospital to make sure they hadn't come into contact with anything dangerous.
"Recent advances in forensic science helped us link Morrison to crimes that were up to six years old. We received valuable assistance from colleagues in other forces as the investigation developed across police borders."