A FAIRGROUND worker who sent packages purporting to be anthrax to MPs include outgoing Warrington North member Helen Jones has been jailed.

Richard Hayes sent more than a dozen letters containing white powder - some in envelopes with ‘anthrax’ written on them – to the offices and home addresses of MPs, MEPS and councillors across the country over a three-year period between 2011 and 2014.

Former Labour MP Mrs Jones, who will not contest next month’s general election after more than 20 years serving her constituency, was among those targeted.

Warrington Guardian: Warrington North MP Helen Jones

Helen Jones

Forty-year-old Hayes, from Devon, was handed five years behind bars at Exeter Crown Court today, Thursday, after admitting 16 charges of making a noxious substance hoax.

Sentencing, Mrs Justice May said: “Over a three-year period, you posted envelopes containing a white powder to politicians including MPs, MEPs and local councillors – all of them were women.

“I have read all of the statements setting out the distress and disruption caused by your actions.

“In each case the powder turned out to be inert, but none of your victims nor the postal service or the emergency services attending had any way of knowing this.”

Warrington Guardian:

One of the letters sent by Hayes

Welsh assembly member Kirsty Williams’ office was put on lockdown for three hours after she was targeted, leaving one employee and her three young children terrified inside.

Chessington councillor Margaret Thompson was rushed to hospital after opening a letter from Hayes, who has no previous convictions, containing white powder.

Warrington Guardian:

Manchester councillor Lianne Williams, Wolverhampton North East MP Emma Reynolds, Oxford and Abingdon MP Nicola Blackwood, Lewisham East MP Heidi Alexander, Castle Point MP Rebecca Harris, London MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford and three councillors in Exeter also received similar packages.

Warrington Guardian:

Hayes, described in court as a ‘gentle individual’, was only caught last year when he was cautioned by police for harassing his former partner by sending her pizzas and taxis.

Officers took samples of his DNA, which matched that found on stamps on the suspicious packages after he had licked them.

Warrington Guardian:

Detective chief inspector Ian Butler, from the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit Counter-Terrorism Policing unit, described Hayes' actions as ‘sick and senseless’.

He added: “The effect of the hoaxes orchestrated by Hayes in today's society is far reaching, as it triggered understandable panic and emotional distress to those involved and their families.”

“This distress is unlikely to ever leave the victims, some of whom have described life-changing consequences in the years since the attacks.”