Snatched body 'found near cemetery'
3rd May 2006

Activist: John Ablewhite was one of three people convicted of taking part in a long-running terror campaign which culminated in the theft of Gladys Hammond's remains

Detectives searching for the body of a pensioner which was stolen from a graveyard by animal rights activists have discovered human remains near a war cemetery.

Officers investigating the desecration of the grave of Gladys Hammond in Yoxall in October 2004 made the discovery after fresh information was received by the investigation team, Staffordshire Police said

A force spokesman said: "Officers can confirm that what are believed to be the remains of a human body have been discovered on Cannock Chase."

The spokesman confirmed that forensic teams and Staffordshire detectives were at the scene, which has been cordoned off.

"Officers are expected to remain at the scene for most of the day while work continues to remove the remains," the spokesman added.

It is understood that the discovery was made by officers late yesterday afternoon on land near the German War Cemetery at Broadhurst Green, near Hednesford.

The spokesman went on: "The remains are planned to be carefully removed later today

"They will be taken to Stafford mortuary before undergoing DNA and other tests to establish the identity. This could take several days.

"We are unable to give more details regarding the remains at this stage."

Relatives of Mrs Hammond, who died in 1997 aged 82, have been informed and are being supported by a police family liaison officer.

The discovery came just nine days before four animal rights extremists are expected to be sentenced at Nottingham Crown Court for conspiracy to blackmail a guinea pig breeding farm co-owned by Mrs Hammond's son-in-law.

The defendants, who are facing lengthy jail sentences, pleaded guilty last month to taking part in a long-running terror campaign which culminated in the theft of the pensioner's body from her grave.

Kerry Whitburn, John Smith, John Ablewhite and Josephine Mayo were described as "determined and cold-blooded defenders of their perceived cause" by a judge for their part in a six-year crusade against Darley Oaks Farm.

The farm, in Newchurch, Staffordshire, was involved in breeding guinea pigs used in bio-medical research, but has now ceased its operations.

The long-running hate campaign also involved arson attacks, hoax bombs, malicious phone calls, hate mail, death threats and even a paedophile smear campaign.

Regular demonstrations were held outside Darley Oaks Farm in parallel with the activists' "war" to force the site to close.

The Hall family announced last August that it would cease breeding guinea pigs at the farm from January this year in the hope that the move would prompt grave robbers to return their relative's remains.

Whitburn, 36, of Summer Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham; Smith, 39, of Leicester Street, Wolverhampton, Ablewhite, 36, of Hawley Street, Manchester; and Mayo, 38, of Spring Bank Road, Edgbaston, have all pleaded guilty to conspiring to blackmail David Hall and Partners and others connected to the farm between September 1999 and September 2005.

They are due to be sentenced on May 12.