David Ward, a 51-year-old unemployed chemistry graduate blackmailed a supermarket (whose identity and location can’t be revealed due to a court ruling) claiming he had contaminated one of their products with cyanide and requested £2 million in compensation. According to the man’s letter addressed to the supermarket, he would have revealed where he placed the product if his demands were met.
Ward sent a vial containing cyanide he purchased from the dark web with the letter to the supermarket’s headquarters. Law enforcement authorities managed to track the man down when they found his DNA on the stamp from the package containing the poison. They arrested him the day after he blackmailed the store. His DNA matched with an unconnected previous offense in 2012.
Ward is facing seven years in prison for his offense. According to him, he only claimed to have poisoned the food in the supermarket, but it was only a threat, he did not do it. Also, in the letter, he said he was working with a “group of people”, but in reality, he was “working” alone.
When police examined the vials sent to the supermarket’s HQ, they found five to ten lethal doses of potassium cyanide.
“Within four days, you were identified as the perpetrator of this blackmail scheme and you were traced and arrested at your home address,” Judge Mark Dennis QC said as he delivered Ward’s sentencing. “Had it not been for a DNA profile obtained from you in relation to an earlier offense, you may well have remained undetected and your scheme allowed to run at your direction. You had training and expertise in chemistry and you were perfectly capable of obtaining and handling chemicals. You did obtain a significant amount of potassium cyanide for the purposes of this threat.”
“He accepts that he deserves a heavy prison sentence. He will do his time and come out a better person,” Matthew Sherratt, defending Ward, made this statement about his client.
“It is completely stupid what I’ve done,” Ward said during his trial. The 51-year-old’s full demand letter goes by:
“It’s very important that you read this letter and take its contents very seriously.
One of your products has been poisoned and placed on the shelf earlier today.
The product in question is a slow seller but you still have only four to five days before a customer purchases the poisoned product.
I suggest you have a quick analysis done of the contents of this tube.
You will find it contains a pure grade of potassium cyanide so please do not consider this letter a mere threat.
We can manufacture as much cyanide as we would ever need.
The dose employed will result in the certain death of a whole family within 30 minutes of consumption .
We want two million pounds.
Sorry the amount is large but there are several people involved who will need to be paid and I’m sure [you have] extortion insurance to make the loss more [sic] painful.
We are all employees of the company and free to poison your products at any time of our choosing.
We have the power to make your stores untouchable when word gets out to the press.
You may have cameras in your warehouse but it is very easy to hide behind all those packed cages.
We have the power to destroy your company and we will unless paid.
Perhaps our next strike could take place at [specific store] on [specific date] when the stock audit takes place, just to give you 30 plus more suspects to worry about.
Pay us and the problem simply goes away.
No word of this will ever leak to the media from us.
Don’t pay and people will die, I promise you, and we will want four million then for the extra unwanted attention this would bring.
Who knows, you might get lucky and your old friends at the police will retrieve your money.
If you are ready to pay, place an obituary in [a national newspaper] in memory of [a specific name] and I’ll leave the rest of the text to you.
Make the announcement and innocent people need not die.”