Mother almost fed nine-month-old baby shards of metal, court told

A woman almost fed her daughter shards of metal from a jar of baby food allegedly contaminated by a farmer as part of a blackmail plot against Tesco, a court has heard.

Harpreet Kaur-Singh, from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, had tipped the contents of the Heinz Sunday chicken dinner into a bowl and was preparing to microwave it when she saw the slivers of metal.

Nigel Wright, 45, is on trial at the Old Bailey accused of deliberately spiking the jar as part of a campaign to extort £1.4 million in bitcoin from the supermarket giant.

He is alleged to have bombarded Tesco with letters and emails claiming he had planted poisoned goods in dozens of stores, and offering to reveal where they were in exchange for the money.

Giving evidence via video-link, Mrs Kaur-Singh said she had been preparing to give her nine-month-old daughter her dinner when she noticed “metal chippings” in the food.

“I didn’t think anything of it and just binned it,” she said.

She later found metal in a jar of Heinz pasta stars.

“I showed it to my husband and he said ‘It’s metal chippings’ so I binned it and binned all the (baby) food.”

She added: “It was like shredded chippings of metal – my husband is a construction worker and he saw the metal and knew it was metal.”

Mrs Kaur-Singh did not contact Tesco until she received notification of a product recall for all Heinz baby food after a jar containing slivers of craft knife blade was discovered by a mother in Lockerbie.

The court previously heard that Morven Smith had been feeding her 10-month-old son a jar of Heinz sweet and sour chicken baby food in December 2019 when she spotted shards of metal.

Wright, from Market Rasen, Lincolnshire, is accused of contaminating the jar with the blades, and of depositing it in a Tesco in the Scottish town while delivering a tractor to a buyer on behalf of his neighbour.

In that instance, Wright is said to have marked the underside of the jar with a circle with a cross through it.

Mrs Kaur-Singh said she did not notice any similar mark on the contaminated jars she had bought.

A total of 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to Tesco from Wright related to Cow & Gate baby food and resulted in 140,000 units of the company’s products being withdrawn from Tesco shelves.

Wright denies two counts of contaminating goods and three counts of blackmail against Tesco.

He claimed to be part of a cohort of dairy farmers angry at the low price they were paid for their milk, and he signed off his letters “Guy Brush and the Dairy Pirates”.

He faces a further charge of blackmail for 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.