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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Tristan Kirk

Man accused of terror threats with envelopes of white powder sent to shopping centres and primary schools

Schools, shopping centres, and businesses were sent envelopes containing white powder in an alleged six-week terror campaign, a court has heard.

The Westfield shopping centres in east and west London, two primary schools in Essex, DVLA headquarters in Swansea, and a Premier Inn close to Stansted Airport were among the targets of the hoax campaign, it is said.

Prosecutors say some letters included written threats, suggesting the white powder was deadly and could cause widespread harm to health.

Gary John Preston, 63, who lives in the market town of Haverhill in Suffolk, now faces 21 charges brought under anti-terror laws, following an investigation by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit.

He has not entered a plea.

Preston was due to appear for a preliminary hearing in his case at the Old Bailey on Friday morning, but he was not present.

He was ordered to face trial at Woolwich Crown Court, in south-east London, in April 2024.

A trial preparation hearing was set for the same venue on July 14

It is said Preston sent notes “with the intention of inducing in a person a belief that it is likely to be, or contain, a noxious substance or other noxious thing and thereby endanger human life or create a serious risk to human health”.

Westminster magistrates court was told a “large number of letters containing a white powder” were sent to “businesses and commercial and educational establishments in England and Wales” between September and November 2013.

Ten of the notes were sent to locations in Braintree in Essex; to the local college, Notley High School, Lyons Hall and St Michael’s Church of England primary schools, as well as the Freeport Shopping Centre, and branches of Vision Express, Coral Bookmakers, Specsavers, Barclays Bank, and Costa Coffee.

Also among the alleged targets were Transport for London, Essex County Council, the Premier Inn at Stansted Airport, Westfield Shopping Centres in White City and Stratford and Elmsleigh Shopping Centre in Staines, Anglia Ruskin University in Chelmsford, an investment management firm, also in Chelmsford, a Holiday Inn in Hayes, west London, and Bishops Stortford Post Office.

Preston, who is currently being held at HMP Chelmsford, appeared in court on March 22, when he was remanded in custody.

The magistrates court directed that he stand trial in front of a jury, with no pleas indicated to the 21 charges brought under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

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