A former Cambridge University research fellow who worked in a top secret government laboratory has been jailed for sending fake poison to Theresa May.
Christopher Doyle, 54, was today sentenced to two years and 10 months behind bars for posting the white powder to the then prime minister in 2018 and also for making indecent images of children.
The package, which was addressed c/o The Nazi Party, also contained a cartoon of the Tory leader decapitated, a picture of former spy Alexander Litvinenko and a message tearing into Ms May’s Russia policy.
The scientist, from Widnes, Cheshire, attempted to deliver the fake poison just a month after the Salisbury Novichok attack on Sergei Skripal, when the country was shocked by the use of chemical nerve agents on British soil.
Doyle’s hoax package was intercepted and the substance was later found to be harmless citric acid.
But it sparked a counter-terrorism investigation that led to a raid on Doyle’s house, where more than 245,000 indecent images of children were found on a laptop.
Christopher Doyle, 54, (pictured) was today sentenced to two years and 10 months behind bars for posting the white powder to the then prime minister in 2018 and also for making indecent images of children
The package addressed to Theresa May (pictured in 2019) was intercepted and the substance was later found to be harmless citric acid
Sentencing Doyle at Liverpool Crown Court, Judge Anil Murray said: ‘Sergei Skripal had been poisoned just about a month before this letter was opened and so the issue of poisoning was high in the nation’s consciousness.
‘This was a serious offence intended by you to induce fear of danger to human life.’
The mail was examined on April 5 2018 at a Swiss Post screening facility which had to be evacuated, the court heard.
Specialist police said the envelope was stamped March 28 at Warrington Mail Centre and found DNA evidence on the stamp which led them to Doyle.
Doyle who had a PhD in neuroscience and said he previously worked at Government facility Porton Down, denied sending the powder.
The court heard he told officers he believed the powder may have been planted in the letter by MI5 or MI6.
He also told police he had also written a letter to Boris Johnson criticising his attitude to Russia and a letter to then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in which he praised him.
In a police interview following his arrest he claimed he had been a scientist ‘with access to some of the most deadly agents on earth’ in the 1990s, but had not worked since 2002.
The scientist, from Widnes, Cheshire, attempted to deliver the fake poison just a month after the Salisbury Novichok attack on Sergei Skripal (right, with daughter Yulia), when the country was shocked by the use of chemical nerve agents on British soil
Asked whether he put a fake toxin in the letter, he said that was ‘pathetic’ and he would ‘rather be hung for a sheep than for a lamb’, and could have included a real one.
Grilled during the trial about this statement, he said: ‘Yes, if I was going to do something crazy, I may as well go totally crazy.’
The court heard that the scientist suffered from bipolar affective disorder and grown isolated, spending time in pro-Russian Facebook groups.
The court heard that the scientist suffered from bipolar affective disorder and grown isolated, spending time in pro-Russian Facebook groups
Mark Pritchard, defending, said Doyle had been living with agoraphobia since 2013 following the death of a friend.
He said: ‘He has gone from being a successful research fellow at Cambridge University to living in almost isolation.
‘He has been in a bubble of pro-Russian Facebook groups to which he has been a member.’
Judge Murray told the defendant: ‘You are a highly intelligent man. You know the effects your condition has. These were not spur of the moment offences.’
Joseph Allman, prosecuting, said when police raided Doyle’s home in Fir Street they found more than 245,000 indecent images of children on a laptop.
Doyle pleaded guilty to making indecent photographs of children but suggested to jurors many of them were legal and in fact ‘beautiful and artistic’.
Judge Murray said he did not accept Doyle’s claim that he did not have them for his own sexual gratification.
Doyle was also ordered to sign the sexual offenders’ register and made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order.
Doyle has a conviction for common assault in 1998, which he shrugged off as a minor scuffle when he was in ‘the middle of a major breakdown’.
The court today heard this assault was against his eight-year-old stepson.