Campaigner quizzed over substance find

A LEADING Suffolk anti-nuclear campaigner was interviewed under caution by police yesterday after a “suspicious” substance was found in an envelope sent to the offices of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

A LEADING Suffolk anti-nuclear campaigner was interviewed under caution by police yesterday after a “suspicious” substance was found in an envelope sent to the offices of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority in Cumbria.

Charles Barnett, who categorically denies sending the substance, went to Leiston police station to be questioned by detectives after a request to Suffolk police by their Cumbrian colleagues.

The investigation follows the receipt at the NDA's headquarters near Whitehaven of a large envelope containing a small quantity of powder.

The member of staff who opened the package immediately alerted security personnel and the area was evacuated in line with emergency procedures.

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After carrying out tests, police later declared the substance to be harmless. It is thought to have been sugar.

However, detectives are treating the incident as an attempt to cause fear and have launched a full criminal investigation.

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Mr Barnett is chairman of the Shut Down Sizewell Campaign, which has been strongly critical of the NDA in its refusal to order the Sizewell Stakeholder Group, the local nuclear site liaison group, to include representatives of anti-nuclear organisations and to open its sub-committee meetings to the public.

However, he said yesterday that involvement in any kind of criminal act would be contrary to the group's aims and would turn people against it.

Mr Barnett said the envelope had been sent by himself to the NDA with copies of his group's latest newsletter.

“It had my hand-writing on it, my address was on the back and a compliments slip was inside. We also regularly send copies of the newsletter to members of the Cabinet, MPs, public libraries in Suffolk and 20 of the county's schools.

“I have no idea how the sugar got into the envelope. I have looked at a photograph of it, showed to me by the police officer, and can see no sign of it being tampered with. It is a mystery.

“We have always been a non-violent group and any suggestion that any of us would be involved in this kind of thing would be ridiculous,” he said.

Detectives called on Thursday at the Dunwich home of Mr Barnett while he was out and he later phoned the police to accede to their request for an interview under caution, not arrest.

He attended Leiston police station yesterday morning for a tape-recorded interview which lasted 40 minutes. It is understood a copy of the tape is being sent to Cumbria police who will decide whether further action is needed.

Mr Barnett has been a lifelong critic of nuclear power, which he believes to be a dangerous, uneconomic and environmentally unacceptable technology.

He has previously accused the industry of engendering a “police state” - as the result of the need to guard highly radioactive materials and, during the past two and a half years, the deployment of armed officers to patrol in the Sizewell area.

“It is only because we have nuclear power that it is a prime target for terrorists,” he said.

Bill Hamilton, NDA spokesman, said emergency procedures had been instigated following the discovery of the substance in the envelope and the matter was now in the hands of the police.

A spokesman for Cumbria police said the investigation had reached a “very sensitive” stage and he was unable to comment.

A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said: “Suffolk police has interviewed a man in connection with an alleged incident in Cumbria where a letter was received containing a white powder.

“The man has not been arrested and Suffolk will be forwarding details from the interview to Cumbria police so they can continue the inquiry.”

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