Suffolk man jailed after sending white powder packages | Counter Terrorism Policing

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Suffolk man jailed after sending white powder packages

A Suffolk man has been jailed for terrorism offences, after he sent hoax packages containing white powder and letters to primary schools, shopping centres and businesses, telling recipients to ‘run’.

Gary Preston, 64, from Haverhill, was today (Thursday) sentenced to nine-and-a-half years’ after previously admitting 21 charges relating to packages sent between September and October 2013.

An investigation led by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) found that he had targeted educational facilities, airports, shopping centres and local authorities, by sending letters containing an undisclosed white powder.

Gary Preston

Several of the packages also included ‘warning’ notes telling the reader to run or hold their breath.

Recipients were located across the UK, including addresses in Essex, London, South Wales, Surrey and Yorkshire.

The substance was later found to be talcum powder and no medical ill-effects were caused.

Despite continued attempts to identify the sender, investigators had been unable to establish Preston as the main suspect until his DNA was matched to some of the packages following his arrest for a separate offence in July 2020.

As detectives continued their enquiries, Preston’s fingerprints were also then found to match those on another of the packages, with further specialist analysis of the letters also indicating his involvement.

Despite claiming he could not recall the incidents, in August 2023 he was convicted of 21 counts of sending a substance and note with the intention of inducing a belief that it is likely to be noxious, contrary to section 114 of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (2000).

At a Woolwich Crown Court hearing, he was sentenced for terrorism offences as well as an indecent assault at knifepoint against a woman in Rainham, Essex, in 1988.

Head of ERSOU’s Counter Terrorism Policing unit, Hannah Wilkinson said:

“By targeting places such as primary schools and airports, there’s no doubt that Preston had set out to cause as much distress and worry as he could.

“It is also clear that, by sending these packages to more than 20 organisations across the country, he had spent significant time planning and attempting to cover his tracks.

“ERSOU’s detectives continued to track the investigation and as soon as new evidence became available, our teams were able to step up enquiries once more.

“It’s a positive outcome that Preston will now spend a significant spell behind bars.”

Head of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, Nick Price said:

“The actions of Gary Preston caused severe disruption, concern and fear at a wide range of public establishments given the suspicious nature of his actions.

“Following a cold case review, his DNA was then linked to an indecent assault at knifepoint from 1988.

“I hope this conviction and sentence provides some reassurance that this man has now been brought to justice.”

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