In my last post, I reported that Brian Carnell (who runs AnimalRights.net) had directed our attention to two previous instances (link, link) of grave desecration by Animal Rights activists. Readers of that post will recognize the name John Curtin, who the radical Bite Back! magazine featured in an interview, and who admitted to having desecrated the Duke of Beaufort's grave.
It seems that Mr. Curtin may not have learned from his past errors — thus this report:
One of two men arrested in connection with the theft of an 82-year-old woman’s body from a graveyard is a prominent animal rights protester, it emerged today.
The Coventry Animal Alliance said that John Curtin, 41, was arrested by Staffordshire Police this morning at his home in the Hillfields area of Coventry.
A second man, aged 34, was taken into custody in Wolverhampton at around 6.30am by officers probing the desecration of the grave of Gladys Hammond.
Mrs Hammond, who died in 1997, had family connections to Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch, Staffordshire, where guinea pigs are bred for medical research.
Alliance member Nancy Phipps, whose daughter Jill was crushed to death under a lorry during a protest against live animal exports at Coventry airport in 1995, accused officers of conducting a “fishing expedition“.
Mrs Phipps, who is in her 60s, confirmed that Curtin had been arrested at his tower block home in Adelaide Street early today.
Curtin, a former surveyor, has been convicted several times for animal rights offences and was jailed in 1986 after the desecration of the Duke of Beaufort’s grave during an anti-hunting protest.
Mrs Phipps told PA News: “John’s door was knocked down this morning despite the fact he has had nothing to do with the Newchurch protest.
“The police are just on a fishing trip. It’s pretty obvious they have not got a clue who is doing these things.
“John is well known in the movement and he’s a campaigner and a good speaker, but I can assure you he won’t be charged because he’s not involved.
“He has converted to Buddhism and he’s a gentle person. He’s a close friend of all my family and he has not got anything to do with what happened.”
Staffordshire Police have refused to name either of the men who have been detained, but the other person in custody is understood to be an animal rights activist.
A police spokesman said: “In a pre-planned operation between Staffordshire Police and West Midlands Police this morning, officers have arrested two men.
“Warrants were executed in Wolverhampton and Coventry, resulting in the arrest of a 41-year-old man in Coventry and a 34-year-old man in Wolverhampton.
“The men were taken to police stations in Staffordshire, where they will be interviewed.
“Officers are currently conducting searches and forensic tests at the addresses.”
Mrs Hammond’s body was removed from her burial plot in St Peter’s Church in Yoxall, Staffordshire, under cover of darkness last week.
The Hall family have been subjected to a long-running campaign by animal rights activists, suffering hate mail, malicious phone calls, hoax bombs, a paedophile smear campaign and arson attacks.
What can I say? Is it really possible for lightening to strike twice in the same place?
We'll just have to await developments.
UPDATE 10/15/04. Developments have happened - Curtin and another man have been released without having been charged. This sounds like it was a case of "round up the usual suspects."