Anthrax hoaxer admits sending white powder to MPs

Exeter Crown Court

Image caption

Richard Hayes will be sentenced at Exeter Crown Court in November

A hoaxer who sent packages of white powder marked as “anthrax” to female MPs has admitted targeting 16 victims.

Richard Hayes, 40, sent substances including flour, protein powder and bicarbonate of soda “intending to create a belief of a noxious substance”.

Recipients included former Labour MP Heidi Alexander and Conservative MP Chloe Smith.

At Exeter Crown Court, Hayes was told he would be sentenced in November.

Honorary Recorder of Exeter, Judge Peter Johnson told him the “expectation should be one of a lengthy custodial sentence”.

Hayes, from Brixham, Devon, sent the packages between May 2011 to April 2014, the court heard.

He was linked to the hoaxes after his DNA was taken when he was cautioned for harassing a former partner in 2018.

The court heard packages were sent to the offices of:

  • Kirsty Williams, Liberal Democrat AM for Brecon and Radnorshire
  • Heidi Alexander, former Labour MP for Lewisham East
  • Baroness Sarah Ludford, former Liberal Democrat MEP for London
  • Helen Jones, Labour MP for Warrington North
  • Roger Williams, former Liberal Democrat MP for Brecon and Radnorshire
  • Emma Reynolds, Labour MP Wolverhampton North East
  • Baroness Nicola Blackwood, former Conservative MP for North Oxford
  • Jessica Lee, former Conservative MP for Erewash
  • Chloe Smith, Conservative MP for Norwich North
  • Rebecca Harris, Conservative MP for Castle Point
  • A number of Exeter city councillors

Hayes’ handwriting was forensically compared with the writing on 12 of the envelopes and he was arrested by officers from the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU).

Det Sgt Mark Wallis, from ERSOU’s Counter Terrorism Policing unit, said: “I am pleased that Hayes has pleaded guilty, potentially saving his victims the strain of attending a drawn-out court case and having to re-live the shock of uncovering the powder and not knowing what it was.

“These hoaxes caused significant strain, not only on all of Hayes’ victims, but also on the police and fire services, who used specialist chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear officers to deal with every incident.”

Hayes will undergo a psychiatric report and a pre-sentence report before he is sentenced.

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