Scientist jailed for sending fake poison to Theresa May

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A scientist has been jailed for sending white powder to Theresa May just one month after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned.

Christopher Doyle, from Widnes in Cheshire, was sentenced to two years and 10 months at Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday for posting the fake poison, and for making indecent images.

He addressed the letter to Theresa May, c/o The Nazi Party and enclosed a cartoon poster showing the former prime minister decapitated, as well as the powder, along with a picture of former spy Alexander Litvinenko and a message criticising her policy on Russia.

The court heard how the mail was examined on 5 April 2018 at a Swiss Post screening facility, which later had to be evacuated.

However, the white powder was found to be harmless.

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.”

Doyle, 54, denied sending the powder but was convicted following a trial.

The former Cambridge University research fellow, who had a PhD in neuroscience and said he previously worked at government facility Porton Down, suffered from bipolar affective disorder, the court was told.

He 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.

Doyle also told officers he believed the powder may have been planted in the letter by MI5 or MI6.

Defence lawyer Mark Pritchard 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.

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“You know the effects your condition has. These were not spur of the moment offences.”

Joseph Allman, prosecuting, said police found more than 245,000 indecent images of children on a laptop when they raided Doyle’s home.

Doyle pleaded guilty to making indecent photographs of children, but his claim that he did not have them for his own sexual gratification was rejected by Judge Murray.

He was also ordered to sign the sexual offenders’ register and made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order.