A farmer has been found guilty of blackmailing Tesco for more than £1m in a plot involving baby food laced with fragments of metal.
Nigel Wright, 45, of Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, was accused of attempting to extort £1.4m in bitcoin from the supermarket giant by contaminating goods between May 2018 and February 2020.
He was alleged to have sent letters to the chain saying he would reveal the location of contaminated products if it transferred the cryptocurrency.
Wright claimed to be in a cohort of dairy farmers angry at the low price they were paid for their milk, and signed off his letters “Guy Brush and the Dairy Pirates”, the Old Bailey heard.
Two mothers, who bought the jars separately in Rochdale and Lockerbie, were about to feed their infants baby food containing metal shards before spotting them, jurors were told.
Justice Warby asked for a psychiatric report to be prepared ahead of Wright’s sentencing next month.
“(Wright) has or appears to be mentally disordered,” the judge said, warning that Wright faces a lengthy custodial sentence, telling him that punishments for these types of offences range from between eight and 17 years in prison.
Wright was accused of putting the shards into the jars and leaving them in the store.
The incident led to Tesco issuing a recall of all the jars and removing the rest of the stock, though there was no evidence any more jars were affected.
Wright was tracked down by police and officers found photos of the contaminated food on his laptop, jurors heard.
A letter drafted on the laptop said: “Imagine a baby’s mouth cut open and blood pouring out, or the inside of their bellies cut and bleeding.
“You pay, you save them.”
Wright told the court that Travellers had threatened to kill him and his family unless he helped them blackmail Tesco.
Wright claimed Travellers had threatened him
He said his encounter with these Travellers began after he fired a warning shot with a shotgun at a group of men who came to his property looking for scrap metal.
He said they came to his home days later and threatened him with a knife, saying he should either rob a bank, steal cows or poison supermarket goods to raise money.
But prosecutor Julian Christopher QC told him: “The truth is you were not in fear at all.
“You were carrying on your life normally while hoping to make yourself rich by threatening Tesco in this way while endangering the life of others in the process.”
Wright also faced a blackmail charge for allegedly demanding £150,000 in bitcoin from a driver in a road rage incident.
In all, he was found guilty on Thursday of three counts of blackmail and two counts of contaminating food, as well as a further blackmail charge for demanding £150,000 worth of bitcoin from a driver with whom he had had a road rage altercation.
He claimed he sent a threatening letter to the other motorist to get the incident out of his system before his wife posted it in error.