A mother “felt sick” when she realised she had been millimetres away from feeding her 10-month-old son a craft knife blade allegedly planted in a jar of baby food, a court has heard.
Nigel Wright, 45, is on trial at the Old Bailey for allegedly deliberately spiking the jar as part of a campaign to extort £1.4 million worth of bitcoin from Tesco between May 2018 and February 2020.
Wright, from Market Rasen in Lincolnshire, allegedly sent dozens of letters to the supermarket chain offering to reveal the location of the contaminated products in exchange for cryptocurrency.
Morven Smith, from Lockerbie, had already fed a few spoonfuls of Heinz sweet and sour chicken to her baby when she spotted the shard of metal in the bowl in December 2019.
In a statement, Mrs Smith said she had microwaved half of the jar of baby food in a bowl and put the rest of the jar back in the fridge.
“I took the bowl out of the microwave – I gave my son a couple of spoonfuls and noticed something shiny – I pulled it out with my fingers at that point.
“It was horrendous. I felt sick I was so shocked.”
Mrs Smith said her husband found a second blade stuck at the bottom of the jar.
She said at first she had only planned to contact Heinz and Tesco, saying: “I didn’t think someone might have done this on purpose.”
It was only when she was wrapping the jar and the blades in a freezer bag that she noticed someone had drawn a circle with a cross through it on the bottom of the product.
“I felt sick when I first saw this,” she said.
“I knew at this point the jar had been marked and someone had done it on purpose.”
Tesco issued a national product recall of all its Heinz baby food and emailed all its Clubcard customers warning them of the risk.
It prompted Harpreet Kaur-Singh to contact Tesco to tell them she had found shards of metal in a jar of Heinz Sunday chicken dinner and a jar of cheesy pasta stars.
Mrs Kaur-Singh said in her evidence that at the time she had not thought anything of it, but that she had binned the two jars and her remaining stock of baby food as a precaution.
Following the recall, 42,000 jars of Heinz baby food were recovered, although there is no evidence that any more than the three discovered had been tampered with.
Further letters to Tesco from Wright related to Cow and Gate baby food and resulted in 140,000 units of the company’s products being withdrawn from Tesco shelves, the Old Bailey was told.
A draft of messages sent to Tesco was found on Wright’s laptop following his arrest, as well as photos of tins of food and jars of baby food and slivers of metal, the court heard.
He signed off his letters “Guy Brush and the Dairy Pirates”, the jury heard, and claimed to be part of a cohort of dairy farmers angry at the low price they were paid for their milk.
Wright denies two counts of contaminating goods and three counts of blackmail against Tesco.
He faces a further charge of blackmail for allegedly demanding £150,000 worth of bitcoin from a driver with whom he had had a road-rage altercation.
Wright admits carrying out various elements of the campaign but claims he was forced to do so by travellers who came on to his land and threatened to kill him unless he gave them £1 million.
He denies planting the shards of metal in the baby food found in the Rochdale branch of Tesco, but accepts he placed the contaminated jar on the shelf in Lockerbie.
The trial, which is expected to last three weeks, continues.