Sunday, March 1, 2009

SHAC=ALF - confirmed by the Times

From the Sunday Times:-

ONE November night in 2005 a Jaguar saloon carrying two animal rights activists and their getaway driver turned into an estate of executive homes in Surrey. Their target: a comfortable, mock-Tudor house behind a screen of trees.

Within five minutes, the pair had wrecked three vehicles. They had also daubed abuse all over the front of the property. It was a raid like countless others carried out by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).

On this occasion, however, the man waiting in the car was not the loyal fellow member the attackers believed him to be. He was a former soldier and intelligence services trainer who had infiltrated the ALF’s tight-knit leadership and was reporting every detail of its activities to the police.

Speaking for the first time last week, Adrian Radford described his three years inside the group that terrorised scientists and suppliers linked to animal laboratories in a relentless onslaught.

Radford, who is in his late thirties, said that from 2004 to 2007 he supplied his police handlers with detailed information on hardcore extremists.

Their attacks were financed with cash raised at street stalls for ostensibly peaceful animal welfare causes, he said.

Radford gave detailed accounts of three attacks in which he participated. He also disclosed that he disrupted some and prevented others, often by giving the police information that allowed them to warn potential victims.

One of the attacks he forestalled was against Lord Sainsbury, the former science minister. Activists intended to ambush his car near his home in Buckinghamshire, jumping out of roadside bushes firing high-pressure paint sprayers.

Radford was nicknamed “Captain Nancy” because of his flamboyant character and past work as a gay rights activist. He was widely known for the trade-mark beagle costume he wore at demonstrations. This had been supplied by the police.

In collaboration with Nick Fielding, a former Sunday Times journalist, the infiltrator is now writing a book based on his experiences.

“I have 100% sympathy with people genuinely concerned at the plight of animals,” said Radford, who worked at the ALF under the name of Ian Farmer. “They were giving money for this cause and did not know the money was being used to spray-paint cars and hurl abuse at people’s children.”

Radford, who is now based in Gran Canaria, believes the intelligence he provided from the ALF’s headquarters at a cottage in Hampshire helped the police to target its leaders and protect potential victims.

In a series of trials in recent months, four of the “godfathers” of animal extremism who were befriended by Radford have been jailed.

Gregg Avery, 41, and his wife Natasha, 39, were each sentenced to nine years for conspiracy to blackmail for their part in the campaign.

Heather Nicholson, Avery’s former wife, was sentenced to 11 years. In a separate trial, her boyfriend Mel Broughton, 48, was convicted of fire-bombing a sports pavilion as part of a protest against an Oxford University animal research laboratory.

Radford was inside the ALF while it was in the midst of a campaign that had begun in 2001 against Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a company based in Cambridgeshire that tests new medicines on animals on behalf of pharmaceutical companies.

Firms across Britain and Europe with any links to HLS were targeted. In the most notorious attack, Brian Cass, the managing director of HLS, was beaten with pickaxe handles and sprayed with CS gas.

Other victims had their cars blown up or received threatening e-mails. In another case, a dead woman’s bones were dug up. As a result of the campaign, more than 270 businesses cut links with HLS.

As well as being leaders of the ALF, the Averys were spokesmen for Shac, the outwardly legitimate anti-HLS pressure group. Radford’s infiltration suggested they were using it as a front.

The raid in which he took part on the house in Surrey in 2005 was the last target of five in what the group called its “big night”. The owner was an executive at BAA, whose airports were being used for the import of laboratory animals.

Radford remembers buying large quantities of paint stripper and paint at a Homebase store in Croydon, south London, incongruously paying with bags full of coins taken from an ALF stash.

As the team drove between targets, the ALF “action anthem”, Sandstorm, a techno trance hit by the Finnish producer Darude, pumped from the Jaguar’s stereo.

The raiders wore black track-suits with torn-up black T-shirts as masks and orange washing-up gloves. Radford said the combination, as they were creeping around, “made them look strangely like blackbirds”.

Slogans such as “scum” were spray-painted over the house. The calling card of the ALF, the letter A inside a circle, was painted on the front door.

Tyres on the three cars in front of the home were pierced with a bradawl and their paint-work wrecked. Expanding foam was sprayed into the tail-pipes to wreck their exhaust systems.

It was not the first time Radford had been engaged in conflict. His army career included work with the Intelligence Corps in Northern Ireland.

After being told to leave the forces in 1994 because of his sexuality, he became involved in gay rights. He was alongside the activist Peter Tatchell during a raid on the pulpit of Canterbury Cathedral in 1998.

Radford then worked for private security firms as well as the government. In 2004, with his 20 years of experience as an intelligence field operator, he was detailed by a security firm to gather information undercover on the threat posed by animal rights extremists.

He came to know senior activists and was asked to offer his services to the police and was released from his government work to do this.

The infiltrator met Natasha Avery for the first time in 2004 at an animal sanctuary convention in Kent.

He decided to play up the camp side of his character - a contrast with the down-at-heel characters typical of the animal-rights movement.

Radford passed an unfriendly, greasy-bearded attendant called Max and entered the tent where senior figures were gathered.

“I walked in in a pair of white chinos, walked straight over to them and said, ‘Hi, my name is Ian.’ I was saying things like, ‘Oh God, this is so grungy, it’s so doom and gloom’.”

Gregg Avery looked dumb-founded but, said Radford, “Natasha took to me straight away”. They had lunch at a stall called the Anarchist’s Teapot.

“She is the most lovely person - beautiful, warm, nurturing, compassionate, powerful, eloquent, charming, funny. It’s just that she is also a nutcase who attacks people. Gregg was far quieter and more standoffish.”

His friendship with Natasha is shown by a picture of them embracing and smiling.

Radford gradually worked his way into the organisation’s trust, taking part in demonstrations and manning street stalls.

His first opportunity to take part in a raid came when he became aware of a plan to blow up a haulage depot at Faversham, Kent, from which trucks carried gases manufactured by BOC to the Huntingdon site.

“The idea was to place multiple incendiary devices under the lorries. It would have been their worst attack ever, and it could not be allowed to happen,” said Radford.

He told Natasha Avery he was determined to attack the site alone to prove himself. He then pretended to the ALF he had vandalised a vehicle owned by one of the haulier’s staff. In fact, he had bought a clapped-out car and had himself filmed covering it in paint and stripper.

“This ‘proved’ I could not be a covert human intelligence source,” he said. “They knew police sources are not permitted to break the law.”

In November 2004, Radford was allowed on another night-time raid - the liberation of hundreds of ducks from a farm in Kent. It turned into farce when the activists freed only nine chickens before being chased across fields by a shot-gun-wielding farmer.

It was enough to show that Radford could be useful, and a few months later he graduated to the raid on the five houses, although he was not told of the targets in advance.

Shortly after this, Radford had an operation for a bowel tumour. Instead of pulling out of the ALF, he used this as a pretext to switch to working at the group’s headquarters.

It was a rented cottage occupied by the Averys and five dogs in Little Moorcote, Hampshire. Here he had access to financial and membership details. He was present at planning meetings where lists of targets were drawn up for circulation to activist cells.

Under rules governing informers, Radford was strictly forbidden from committing, encouraging or initiating anything criminal without high-level police authorisation. He was also obliged to give officers any information he discovered that they could use to prevent crimes being carried out.

He said he met his handlers at least daily, sometimes giving them dozens of documents.

“I was supposed to be burning them in the lavatory, but I would burn other bits of paper instead and stuff the real ones down my front,” said Radford.

“If something came up in conversation, I would go to the loo and write it on my body. Later I’d pull up my shirt and show it to a handler.”

The information he gleaned showed the ALF, at its peak, was receiving £750,000 a year from donations, mainly small amounts from street collections. He was also able to show that local cells of the ALF drew funding from - and often had the same leaders as - ostensibly peaceful groups such as Shac and Speak, an animal rights body in Oxford led by Broughton.

Radford’s inside knowledge warned the police of targets for attack. Sometimes, he sabotaged operations, diverting blame on to others.

Often he blamed errors on Gavin Medd-Hall, 45, a computer expert whose job for the group included helping locate targets’ homes. “I used to call Gavin a fat, bumbling, useless old bastard whenever I had sabotaged anything,” said Radford.

The infiltrator was present in June 2006 when the ALF held its first international targeting meeting round a camp fire at the Kent sanctuary at 5.30am.

In January 2007, the police finally pulled Radford out to allow them to round up the group’s leadership without arousing suspicion. They put him under surveillance so that it appeared to the ALF that he was compromised and being panicked into leaving.

Officers did not use his intelligence in court. They protected their sources by using it instead as leads to gather their own evidence during the investigation.

Other sources confirmed Radford had passed information out of the ALF.

Attacks have fallen sharply in recent years thanks to a combination of arrests, tighter laws and court injunctions protecting HLS and other companies.

“I am immensely proud. What we have done will allow people concerned about welfare to speak out without having their views tarnished by these people’s actions,” said Radford.

A police source said he could not confirm or deny anything to do with information allegedly passed to officers.

Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden, a lawyer who has worked for numerous clients against animal extremists, said he was glad many of the leaders were in jail. “There are just enough out of prison to keep the climate of fear going,” he warned. “People have good reason to remain worried.”

Leading extremists

Gregg Avery, 41 Leader of ALF and Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (Shac). Often likened to cult leader, giving purpose to malleable followers who carried out raids on his orders. Sentenced to nine years for conspiracy to blackmail

Natasha Avery, 39 Wife of Gregg, co-leader of ALF and Shac, also serving nine years

Heather Nicholson, 42 Former wife of Gregg Avery. She acted as courier, transporting sacks of coins to fund regional extremist cells. Serving 11 years

Mel Broughton, 48 Boyfriend of Nicholson and co-ordinator of Speak, campaign against an animal lab in Oxford. Sentenced to 10 years in February this year for fire-bombing university sports pavilion

1 comment:

Medawar said...

Good effort.
However, due to the cellular structure, and the fact that some parts of the ALF detest Greg Avery, the richness of his intelligence on the Avery gang, may have led police to underestimate or even ignore other parts of the ALF, especially those involved in persecuting farmers and fishermen rather than researchers.

It's a bit like invading Iraq because your intelligence on Iran is so poor...