Keith's View

Botox and Dead Bodies

Wickham - The Botox Conspiracy

"Why do people laugh at politicians being liars all the time? We should be angry" - Barry Horne on hunger strike 1998

Back to Wickham! Wickham had become one of those places thought out of bounds for an expose or break-in because of its notoriety, its status or its security. Wickham Laboratories in the centre of the twee Conservative Hampshire village of the same name was the focus of one of the earliest lab raids of the 1980’s and many protests since but it was about to become central to perhaps the biggest scandal of all.

Wickham was brought into the spotlight in 1981, when targeted by the ALF who liberated a pack of beagles from the kennels one evening, and was later to fall foul of opportunistic raiders during which documentary evidence was snaffled. Then again following the SEALL raid in 1984 in which activists were investigating the use of stolen pets at the lab. The labs were also infiltrated in the early 1990s, when it was exposed for the sort of atrocities and malpractices found to be so commonplace in this gross environment. The contract testing lab’s management have done themselves no favours running a tail docking practice on site and attacking protesters distributing leaflets; nor, indeed, have they won themselves any friends by insisting that the RSPCA hand over to them for use in product testing any stray dog destined to be put to sleep by the charity rather than they go to waste! To add insult to his profession, Wickham’s head, William Cartmell, offers legal opinion in defence of people accused of animal cruelty and neglect, and to top it all, were the rumours that in 2003 Wickham were testing cosmetics on animals, something supposedly banned in the UK. We had to get in!

A trusted colleague and I decided to hover around the village as the lights went down and see what we could see. We soon realised their reputation was a great deal more fearsome than the security. One thing I’ve found during my ‘research’ is that the more you look the more you see and early potential obstacles can be removed with some lateral thinking. But here, ironically, their use of the LD50 poisoning test was to prove our biggest problem, and in more ways than one their greatest asset.

From the outset, we had to watch out for workers turning up at all hours to count and kill test ‘subjects’. On a couple of occasions, we managed to clamber, crawl and creep across the rooftops of buildings to the Secondary Animal Facility near the rear of the site where staff would pop in intermittently throughout the night to massacre small rodents, then leave again. We got so close, we could hear them talking and laughing and could see them just below us through the frosted glass on the inside of the building. Had we been the type of people they say we are, it would have been the easiest thing in the world to inflict some serious GBH on these people as they were doing to others far less capable of defending themselves right in front of our very eyes.

Focusing instead on recovering evidence and rescuing some animals, we set about formulating a plan to break in through the roof as soon as the site was vacated and leave before anyone returned. Figuring out a suitable break-in proved the biggest headache of all as the timetable at Wickham was so random. We could get two hours or maybe six with a police patrol in the middle, though that was nothing really nothing to worry about because as close as they came to the SAF, they only tended to drive up, turn round and drive off.

It was mid December 2003; ‘Tom’, ‘Jerry’ and Keith were on site, with others waiting in the wings. We’d worked out the best place to park a vehicle for loading, which meant moving a fence to allow us access to a spot behind the old Wickham veterinary practice out back, which wasn’t overlooked by neighbouring houses. Between that and the perimeter of the labs was a really helpful area of grassland from where we were able to monitor activity and get over the outer fence without being detected.

We needed a night of ‘busy’ weather to camouflage the noise we would make in forcing a hole in the gable end of the roof by removing a wooden panel. In such cases, one is often entering an unknown - I was once confronted with a roof so chock-a-block with old cages, it was impossible to move them sufficiently to get in, while on another occasion, found a brick wall beyond the wooden outer wall! It was going to have to be last minute at Wickham and all concerned were prepared for a call at a moments notice.

The biggest flaw in what was a pretty well thought-out plan was the fact that I am a marked man and was under surveillance and had been seen in the area the day before we decided to break in. That day Tom, Jerry and I had gone there tooled up to break in (spanners, headlights, crowbar, screwdrivers, cutters, saw and so on) with three rucksacks full of large rolled up shopping bags for whatever we might find inside and with backup vehicles to take the animals to a pre-arranged safe house. The weather was good and we were long over our nerves after three hours of squatting in the grass ready for the mindless morons we had under surveillance to follow our whispered willing to them to “turn the f***ing lights out and go home” so we could get on with a long overdue incursion into their sordid world of poisoning small live things to death.

I often claim when speaking publicly that I don’t hate these people, just what they do, but that’s not strictly true and I soon felt nothing but hatred for these stupid shaven-headed morons as we watched them go about their disgusting business long into the night. The gas chamber is a favourite at Wickham in which survivors of the test substance lie in heaps and writhe in agony until they are dead or there’s the option of cervical dislocation - (break the neck in normal speak with the back of the head held to the table and a yank to the base of the tail) or a lethal injection, which offers no sweet passing either. Of course, none of these are actually choices: they all mean the same to the animal that’s about to be killed. It’s really just a matter of which method the ones with all the power decide they want to use. They really don’t care - how could they - just as long as it doesn’t take them too long to note down the details.

We knew it was going to be as much about good luck that we weren’t disturbed as good planning and I for one expected to be a suspect in the ensuing investigation
living only a county away and with a reputation, but there was no question we were at least going to have a go. We had a couple of escape routes worked out and never expected any of the animal killers to take on anyone in a balaclava in a dark eerie walkway. Bullies aren’t so brave when confronted by someone they can’t push around. Small rodents are one thing, but masked animal liberators with scary reputations and sharp tools are another.

But it wasn’t to be. The animal assassins weren’t leaving any time soon, so we headed home empty handed again. Rather than view such delays as dead time as I had previously believed them to be, I’ve learnt such times are in fact invaluable and as important as the successful outings in achieving our long term aims. The wheels of justice turn slowly! We decided to stash the rucksacks and come back in 24 hours. Police documents would later show my car was seen at my partner’s home later that night. And there apparently ended the current round of surveillance.

Here for me lies the most interesting aspect of this operation yet to be revealed. The devastating secrets of the vivisection lab were revealed, cosmetics are tested on animals in the UK in 2006. The undercover work of the police was revealed, Operation Gastrula. But how did the raid ever happen at all? To have this big team from the National Crime Squad following me obviously suspecting I was tackling some animal abuse, it must be highly embarrassing that I disappeared from the radar at the most interesting moment between Friday and Saturday. I was out of the house early Saturday morning and going about my business as were the rest of us.

The following night we met up and made our way back to the village. We parked up, waited, and only whispered once in frustration for them to FO home before they did! In a second, we were ballied up, over the fence and sneaking our way again along the deserted walkways to the rear of the complex, up the fire escape and onto the roof. Using a ventilation pipe as a platform I unfurled my box of tricks on the roof and set about teasing a hole in it. Oh how wood screeches as it splinters! At that time of night in a tiny rural neighbourhood, splintering wood makes one hell of a racket as I would be reminded. I was trying to keep it quiet but even pulling out nails was cringe worthy. It didn’t matter as it turned out because no one was alerted and half an hour later we had access to the roof space.

Seeing no cameras in the attic and hot with the work I dropped my face mask so I could breath and slithered my way along. With all the piping and roof supports running through the attic and the claustrophobic atmosphere, it was no easy feat to move around, but we managed to find our way through the network of rooms below by lifting the roof tiles and peering in. Removing the first roof panel and looking around for security cameras before descending, what was the first thing I saw? A security camera! Forgetting I didn’t actually belong here, I hadn’t replaced my mask! Oh! I looked straight at the thing, looking at me! I was upside-down admittedly but it would so obviously be me! I spent a moment figuring out how to talk myself out of this one, put my mask back on and got on with the job. I told myself to “Get the CCTV film” before leaving.

There were mice in ten small rooms, cages in another, a washroom, extermination equipment and documents. We were intending to put the animals into the carry bags and pass them out of the roof but due to the limited space instead had to pass them out cage by cage. This made hard work of moving dozens of mice cages (small plastic storage boxes with a wire lid) up into the roof and through the maze of obstructions. As we had expected, a local police patrol drove by an hour in, but there was nothing for them to see. The police van and its mass of colour glistened in the streetlights and through the windows of the unit where we were busy. It was heart-stopping to hear from the lookout that the police were feet away but no sooner had he told us to be aware of it he was giving the all clear. It was their drive by. With all rooms accessed (in disguise) and cameras disabled we emptied them of over 700 mice and whatever tools, chambers and documents there were. Hanging on the outside of the lab doors were more precious files, but the security system in the corridor and on the doors meant we weren’t able to open them without triggering the alarm. Come back to them shortly.

Bagged up and out in an hour or so, we agreed I would drive the animals away while Tom and Jerry would retrace our steps, this time accessing the corridor, bagging all the documents and the CCTV tapes before beating a hasty retreat. It was midnight, we’d been in there for two hours and it was time for me to leave as we had a load of animals and more to lose if there was a major response to alarm bells ringing, but there were still valuables to recover. However we weren’t to get it all our way because as the lads arrived back at the Animal House, they became aware they weren’t alone. Entering the rear gate was an animal technician who’d arrived for killing duty. He saw them in their ballies as they saw him and everyone scarpered. He phoned the police on his mobile and they were there in nine minutes. Impressive, but nine minutes too late. Tom & Jerry were free to fight another day. I was in trouble for sure. The burglary-bungling mouse bludgeoner had brought his girlfriend and baby along, they were waiting in the car while he popped in to slaughter some tiny unhappy female rodents. Like you do.

The National Crime Squad and local detectives were called in and the lab was sealed off for three days’ forensic examination. The funny thing is, the NCS had been there just 24 hours earlier but hadn’t been sure quite why: now it was clear. The worker was questioned and released back into society (where he and his colleagues continue to pose a very serious threat to all life forms).

Back at the safe house we discovered that the mice - 700 of them - were at various stages of Botox poisoning tests, their tails marked to indicate the dose levels administered. Some were due injections later that morning, for many others it was already too late. We fed and watered and put them to bed then sat down for a read. It was compelling reading even at 4.00am. The documents were a real treat while at the same time truly awful. Its one thing hearing that it happens, that these people are so callous and the tests so irrational, but to see it all first hand brings it all home. There was page after page of dates; animals recorded by numbers, by species, by sex and by age. Hundreds upon hundreds of individuals, (female in the main), none older than six weeks of age injected into the stomach with Botulinum Toxin, the survivors otherwise disposed of. Anything up to 600 a day, each a number, either poisoned to death or later punished for surviving it with a brutal execution. There were rats, mice, rabbits and guinea pigs in their thousands: tens of thousands every year. We worked on into the early hours and by mid morning, we had sorted and duplicated files, and they were on their way to anyone who might be interested.

Two days later, early on Monday morning, I noticed I was under surveillance again and was arrested later that day while I was cleaning out my car at a garage. I was surrounded by a dozen detectives, handcuffed and led away and the vacuum bag was confiscated. The early story I was told was that my car had been randomly spotted parked in the Wickham area the night before the raid but it later emerged there was a lot more to it than that. I was released on bail ten hours later, and all my clothes, footwear, electrical equipment and car were confiscated. It wasn’t until eight months later following extensive inquiries, which revealed sufficient circumstantial evidence to put me in the frame, that I was charged.

The night of the raid, I’d dropped the mice in their cages at a farm in the New Forest some 50 miles away in the next county, from where many were later recovered by these over-zealous government agents. This was a big blow for me, but the saddest thing of all was hearing the police had given the mice straight back to Wickham who - it emerged in court - had promptly used their re-found loss in some other cruel, pointless poisoning test.

One national newspaper, The Daily Mail exposed the story under the headline “Outcry Over Mice That Die For Every Batch Of Botox.” The source of the material wasn’t credited as coming from an ALF raid on Wickham, rather their expose, but it did expose the truth about Botox and the number of animals dying in LD50 tests, which have increased dramatically in line with the increased popularity of Botox as a cosmetic treatment (it also has medical application). In the main, baby mice are injected into the stomach, and their suffering is then monitored until half have died. Those that don’t die as a consequence of the Botox injections will slowly suffocate as their muscles and lungs paralyse. The remainder are disposed of violently. Wickham of course denied cosmetic testing. A spokesman said: “It is against the law and we don’t do it here. But I refuse to discuss anything further.” Ironically, the Daily Mail was the same national newspaper that as part of the ongoing propaganda war on anti vivisection, was to call me as a terrorist thug, a “monster” and as “one of the most dangerous men in Britain” following my conviction for this very expose!

Evidence against me included mobile phone records from a phone I had used once months before and referred to in an email, which was investigated and found to be in the Wickham area on the night of the raid and showed text messages had been sent between this phone and my co defendants, neither of which was recovered. Nor was any of the content. It was, we were told, unusual for a case such as this involving as it did the loss of a few hundred small white mice and some documents from a commercial premises, that phone transmitter records be obtained to pinpoint the location of mobile phones when texts were sent. This I was informed by my lawyer is usually something reserved for murder investigations. There was also a possible fibre match from the roof space and a possible tyre track mark from my car near the lab. Teams of detectives kept me under surveillance following my release when they knew where I was and tailing me after bail appointments at the police station and eavesdropping on conversations. This was a big thing for the police and no expense was spared in their investigation.

The government has repeatedly said all vivisection is absolutely essential and alternatives to animals and the LD50 would be used where available. Well the cosmetic use of Botox is far from essential and there is an alternative. They said the LD50 would only be used in “exceptional scientific circumstances.” Liars! My defence rested on Section 2/3 of the Theft Act, which I will remind you allows discretion for someone acting in good faith to prevent a crime by committing a crime, if the offence is genuinely honest. It was my argument that the Government isn’t acting in the spirit of things and needs to be taken to task over the issuing of licences for the LD50 test for Botox and that the average person would be appalled to hear that Botox is being tested on animals at Wickham this way. None of the paperwork was recovered, despite intense police efforts following my release.

Eighteen months later, Melvyn Glintenkamp, one of the residents of the farm where the mice had been recovered was put to trial for conspiracy to commit burglary. He denied involvement and the evidence corroborated our stories. I admitted my role but denied I was guilty on the grounds that the tests we uncovered were illegal and immoral. Not only is the LD50 test crude and irrelevant and there a supposed voluntary ban on cosmetic testing, but there is a more accurate method for testing Botox known as the Snap 25.

At Portsmouth Crown Court, it was revealed there were “undesirable” side effects to the Botox when injected into animals (monkeys and mice were referred to), which were described as “commercially sensitive” and so edited from the publicly released licence details. The brand product in question, Dysport, contains human albumin, a blood product, which according to internal documents carries the risk of transmitting viral infection, not that anyone really cares because the growth in the use of Botox is far too profitable. One Wickham witness first denied they use the LD50 but was forced to own up under cross-examination after we released the documents we stole and they then had to admit the truth, that it was the poisoning method they preferred.

On one occasion, the judge remanded the two of us into custody after cars in the area near the court were leafleted during the lunch recess re the government lies on vivisection but we were exonerated and released from the cells after CCTV footage of the court car park gathered by the attendant squad of detectives showed only an unknown female assailant assaulting cars with her propaganda. The judge also became agitated at observers in the public gallery taking notes on proceedings. On one occasion, he confiscated the notes of two people including the Wickham boss Chris Bishop who spent the eight-day trial in the courtroom scribbling away and fidgeting uncomfortably in the presence of others not like him.

The judge was absolutely incredulous at the idea that I claimed to have acted with honest intent in my actions. From the offset it was his stated purpose to publicly exonerate Wickham of any involvement in anything illegal and he did so often. Ignoring the fact that it became clear there is no official monitoring of the use of Botox once it has killed animals in places like Wickham, something that should be of great public concern and ignoring my legal defence, at the end of the trial the judge summed up the case for the prosecution warning the jury of anarchy should I be acquitted and reminding them that there was nothing wrong with Wickham’s work in the eyes of the government, because, its “regulated” by them! Yeah, yeah.

His summing up was in the view of all objective observers nothing short of disgraceful and as good if not better than the prosecution case. The jury was easily persuaded to unanimously convict us both. There was nothing but circumstantial evidence against my co defendant, I protested his innocence as did alibi witnesses but no matter. The judge described the raid, which caused minimal physical damage and generated media coverage leading to calls to address the Botox scandal, as “a very serious offence” and worse than the ordinary burglary! He reluctantly consented to bail us pending sentencing and warned that prison was highly likely. Weeks later, we returned for sentencing and I was fully expecting to be sent to prison for two or three years, but due to the mitigating circumstance of the fact that I was a carer and my imprisonment would adversely affect my partner and because the judge said he didn’t want make me a martyr and attract any further publicity, he agreed to a non custodial community punishment. Amazingly we were free to go! It was to be a remarkably temporary respite for me.

On leaving court I exchanged words with Bishop as had become the norm during our week together in court. I had lived in the same village as him for months and had never even said boo. He mumbled something and looked unhappy I was going home and I told him his troubles had only just started. Well… He promptly jumped up like someone had shoved a hot rod up his arse and squealed “Mann, you can’t say that to me!” and started waving his arms around like a rag doll on acid. I went out to celebrate. The judge, who hadn’t left the court room, summonsed me back in and convened a mini trial to find out what had gone on! Everyone looked serious and I felt that sinking feeling. He interrogated other witnesses who agreed with my version of the non event, but concluded I had been in contempt of court! This was helped in no small part by Bishop adding some line about how I said “something like, ‘You will have to look under your bed’”. I said nothing of the sort! This was a lie, which coming from such a man, is no surprise. Wickham sustain their business on lies: they denied they used animals at all and then went on to deny they were testing Botox on the animals they denied they use. If you get my meaning. I have the documentary evidence from inside Wickham which proves them liars.

In a moment of unexplained hysteria, I had all the publicity the judge had said he wanted to avoid and some. I was told I could be re sentenced, but was instead given six months for contempt of court on top of community service. One minute I had been looking at two years, then I was on my way home and then before my feet had left the court room I was on board the prison van on the way to Winchester Prison. That was a memorable day!

Short sentences are known to be as tedious as the long ones as I found out. There is no time to settle in and achieve anything - it’s more a case of just killing time until imminent release. To compound this, two weeks before I was due to be released, I took a legal call in prison. It was not good news. I was informed that my actual date of release had shifted slightly from the end of July to the end of the following January. The Appeal Court had agreed with an application by the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith (the same man who had conspired with Tony Blair to fool people into allowing him to attack countless defenceless men women and children in Iraq and elsewhere), that community service was an unduly lenient punishment for what I had done. This happened far more quickly than the appeal against conviction, which they later rejected, and got me an additional 12 months to increase the overall sentence for breaking into Wickham to 18 months.

It was a blow at the time, but I got on with it, spent weeks in the Braille class learning to translate, passed a business studies course, won the 800 meters in the inter wing sports day, shared some propaganda, and helped the three prison kitchens with their vegan menu. I was released on tagging after six months and spent three on curfew. I have behaved myself since and am currently promoting the new blockbuster Behind The Mask at cinemas around the UK and Europe.

I made mistakes and paid the price but breaking into Wickham was all anyone could do to expose this scandal. The alternative should be to do what? Write to MP? My MP told me cosmetic testing had been banned in the UK. Liar. My biggest regret is not better preventing them taking the rescued mice back to be reused. There is increasing pressure being applied at Wickham and it is only a matter of time before injunctions start flowing. Workers’ vehicles have been sabotaged, the labs have been attacked, and suppliers have been persuaded to pull out. As is the fashion, the web site has been hacked, there are phone blockades and so on yet Wickham bosses work tirelessly to build a bigger lab in a better location.

The police kept my car but finally returned my clothing and so on two years later. Meanwhile, the government are so concerned by our little efforts they are seeking laws to make these raids as significant as flying planes into buildings and blowing up passenger trains. Does what we have to say have them worried or not! Compassionate folk - keep talking!

See also Botox Test Exposed Again 1/11/09 read

Click on any of the below images to see the documents in full




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© Keith Mann