A sheep farmer from Lincolnshire is accused of attempting to blackmail Tesco by contaminating baby food jars between May 2018 and February 2020. Nigel Wright, 45 reportedly laced Heinz baby food jars with metal shards hoping to extort about £1.4 million in Bitcoins from the company. This has prompted Tesco to issue a product recall of 42,000 jars of Heinz baby food along with 140,000 jars of Cow and Gate baby food. As of this time, there has been no evidence to indicate there were more than three jars that were tampered with.
In his testimony, Wright claimed that a group of men he referred to as travellers, had come to his property looking for scrap metal when he fired a warning shot at them with his shotgun. The men returned and threatened to rape his wife and hang his two children and demanded he give them £500,000. After telling them he doesn't have the money, the travellers suggested he either rob a bank, steal cows or poison a supermarket to get cash in return.
Wright said that one of the men kept coming back asking for their money. "I told him I had contacted Tesco and asked them for money - I gave him a copy of the letter I had written. If I didn't get this money this guy was going to carry out these threats, he was going to hurt my family," he said
However, the 45-year-old farmer said he had no idea how to contaminate baby food jars. According to Wright, the men gave him a food jar and forced him to plant it in Lockerbie. He admitted to planting the jar on a shelf claiming he was being followed by a car on his way to Lockerbie.
Wright had allegedly sent dozens of letters to the supermarket chain threatening to go to national media about the jars laced with metal blades. In his letters, he demanded £1.4 million worth of cryptocurrency in exchange for information on where the contaminated jars were placed.
Prosecutor Julian Christopher QC said the CCTV footage from the shop made it seem that Wright took extra care to avoid suspicion.
He said: "What I suggest we see, the first thing you do is take two jars off the shelf and you take the jar you had come with from your pocket and put it in the trolley. And then, as if changing your mind, put the jar back on the shelf."
He was also seen also purchasing flowers and a bottle of wine for his wife.
Christopher further criticised the farmer's defence, saying that the defendant was playing "a game" and "taking delight in being able to outsmart" the supermarket chain.
Mr. Wright said he acted merely in fear for his life and his family.
The prosecutor rebuts: "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."
The trial continues this week.