Man obsessed by Covid sparked bomb scare at vaccine plant, court hears

·3-min read
Police officers outside the Wockhardt pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, a production plant for the coronavirus vaccine, on Wrexham Industrial Estate, North Wales, where a suspect package is being investigated. Picture date: Wednesday January 27, 2021. (PA Archive)
Police officers outside the Wockhardt pharmaceutical manufacturing facility, a production plant for the coronavirus vaccine, on Wrexham Industrial Estate, North Wales, where a suspect package is being investigated. Picture date: Wednesday January 27, 2021. (PA Archive)

A man with an “obsessive interest” in Covid-19 sent a suspicious package to a vaccine factory – sparking a bomb scare and evacuation, a court has been told.

Anthony Collins, 54, also sent similar parcels to 10 Downing Street and a laboratory in Wuhan in China the court heard.

Production of the Oxford AstraZeneca jab at premises in Wrexham in Wales ground to a halt in January after a package sparked a bomb scare and 120 people had to be evacuated.

Only after army bomb disposal experts had set up a 100m cordon and detonated the device, it was then they could be sure that it contained no explosive material.

Collins, from Kent, is charged over the incident and appeared at Maidstone Crown Court on Monday for trial.

He has denied one count of dispatching an article by post with the intention of inducing the belief it is likely to explode or ignite.

Concerns were raised by local postman Huw Jones, who noticed the odd looking package covered in writing in his bundle when he arrived at the Wockhardt site on January 27.

Police were called and the Army’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit – bomb disposal – was called to the scene, the court heard.

Prosecutor Alan Gardner told the jury: “They, the Army staff, came to the site and they set up a cordon and they examined the package using a robot.

“It appeared looking at that X-ray of what was inside this package that the package contained batteries and electrical circuitry.”

The bomb disposal team proceeded on the basis that the package might contain a viable explosive device, the prosecutor said.

In total 120 people had to be evacuated and production of the vaccine was halted, though the batch was able to be salvaged later.

The EOD team detonated the device and it was discovered that it contained no explosive material.

It had contained a calculator, a garden glove, four batteries, a “yellow biohazard bar”, a service wipe and a quantity of paper, the jury was told.

Mr Gardener said: “There is no dispute that it was Mr Anthony Collins who sent this package by post to Wockhardt.

“One of the pieces of paper – one of the documents – found inside contained Mr Anthony Collins’ name and address”, he added.

Collins, of Chatham Hill, Chatham in Kent, was later arrested and interviewed by police.

Mr Gardner said: “Mr Collins told the police in short that his intention in sending the package to Wockhardt was to help scientists and the Government deal with Covid-19.

“The prosecution say it appears that Mr Collins had developed, for whatever reason, some degree of obsession with issues related to the Covid virus and the associated vaccines.”

The prosecutor said Collins had developed an “obsessive interest” in the virus and vaccines.

Other similar packages sent by Collins to 10 Downing Street, AstraZeneca, a US Air Force base in Gloucestershire, a laboratory in Wuhan and what appeared to be the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un were intercepted.

Wockhardt, a global pharmaceutical and biotechnology company, was providing fill-and-finish services for the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine – the final stage of putting the vaccine into vials.

The trial continues.

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