Police investigate letters from animal rights activists threatening to make bogus claims about hundreds of staff
Contractor Montpellier has pulled out of a contract to build a laboratory this week after animal rights activists threatened to forge criminal records purporting to expose hundreds of its staff as sex offenders.
This led directly to the decision to withdraw from the project to build a medical research centre for Oxford University (pictured).
A senior police source told Building that the company had pulled out of the project “in the interests of its staff”. He said that the company was issued with an ultimatum: to quit within a week or staff and their families would be targeted.
The source said: “Senior directors at Montpellier have been shaken by this – it has become very personal.”
Anonymous letters, headed “A serious warning from animal rights activists”, warned senior directors and staff at the contractor that the writer would forge records purporting to list sex offences and circulate them to neighbours.
A spokesperson for West Mercia Constabulary confirmed to Building that it was investigating one case, which is believed to involve a letter sent to a Montpellier employee.
This document, which has been seen by Building, warned the recipient that a further letter
would be sent to hundreds of his neighbours making false allegations about his personal life if Montpellier did not pull out of the project.
The anonymous letter said: “It will also contain a forged criminal record showing a string of sexual offences committed by yourself throughout your adult life.”
Senior directors have been shaken by this – it has become very personal
Senior police source
The letter then warned the recipient that if Montpellier did not quit within a week there would be “permanent” consequences for him and his family for as long as the laboratory stayed open.
The West Mercia Constabulary spokesperson said: “This incident is very distressing for the victim and his family. The police are taking this very seriously and an investigation is under way.”
It is also understood that other Montpellier executives in the West Mercia area have been singled out.
The spokesperson added that West Mercia Constabulary was determined to prevent the animal rights extremists committing an offence to further their cause.
RMC Group, the concrete supplier on the project, also announced that it was to pull out of the scheme. In a statement, the group said that now Montpellier had pulled out it was under no obligation to stay.
It was reported this week that the army had been placed on standby to assist with construction of the £18m laboratory.
Ministers are considering a plan to use army units for the delivery of building supplies to ensure that the research centre was not derailed by violent protests.
The university has vowed to press ahead with the scheme, which will bring together existing animal research facilities in a state-of-the-art facility. Travis Perkins, another building supplies company, withdrew from the project in April.