An animal rights activist planted two home-made petrol bombs at Oxford University, a court heard this week.

Mel Broughton was said to have worked with others to wage a terrorist campaign against the University’s plans to build a controversial animal testing laboratory.

The jury heard this week that two devices allegedly set off by the defendant ripped apart a sports pavilion owned by The Queen’s College and that a further two unexploded bombs were found beneath a portacabin used by the then Templeton College.

John Price, prosecuting, told the jury at Oxford Crown Court that Broughton was a prominent member of SPEAK, the animal rights organisation that has been campaigning against Oxford University since it announced plans in 2004 to build a bio-medical research laboratory on South Parks Road.

“a fanatic”

“He is a renowned self-proclaimed activist – a fanatic,” he said.

“He is a, if not the, leading figure of SPEAK, which campaigned against Oxford University’s laboratory.”

The organisation was formed to conduct legal and legitimate protest, but the court heard that there were those within the group that waged a violent and very frightening terrorist campaign against the University.

The jury was also told that Broughton’s DNA was found on one of the components used within one of the discovered unexploded devices.

Speaking as a witness, scientist Dr Rosalyn Hammond confirmed that traces she found on a swab used on one of the unexploded bombs was a match for the defendant.

“The match corresponds with Mr Broughton,” she said.

“The probability of getting this result profile from someone other than Mr Broughton is one in one billion.”

Mr Price added that Broughton had a history of being found in possession of incendiary devices and was convicted in 2000 at Northampton Crown Court of conspiracy to cause an explosion likely to endanger life.

Hidden notebook

He told the court that police who raided the defendant’s home in Semilong Road, Northampton, found items used in the home-made explosives and a notebook containing a list of those people he had been targetting hidden under the carpet.

The officers also found 14 packets of sparklers, a security pass for Oxford University and a battery connector hidden inside a water tank in his bathroom.

“The devices shared one feature, which was of particularly distinctive importance,” said Mr Price.

“They all, the two devices found at the sports pavilion, and the two devices at the portacabin, were improvised from fuses involving ordinary fireworks bound together as a thread.”

“He did not have them (the sparklers) for use at a future children’s firework party,” said Mr Price.

Mr Price said that the portacabin owned by The Queen’s College was targeted by activists claiming to work for the Animal Liberation Front on the 18th November 2006, with familiar unexploded devices found in an office at Templeton College on February 26th in 2007.

Authorities found 12 litres of fuel in the device at Queen’s College, and 20 litres of fuel in the device found at Templeton College.

Police who searched the destroyed premises found two home-made devices in the roof which had used ordinary firework sparklers as a fuse.

“Bite-Back”

Mr Price said that on both occasions anonymous messages had been placed on the “Bite-Back” animal rights website claiming responsibility for the attacks.

Extremists have consistently posted threats on the website pledging to continue direct action against those associated with the University until the laboratory project is scrapped.

Mr Price said other petrol bomb attacks had also been carried out by the group on cars owned by professors and the University boathouse, although neither of these particular cases necessarily involved the accused.

Broughton denies conspiracy to commit arson, possesion of an article or articles with intent to destroy or damage property, and keeping explosive substances with intent.

He listened carefully as the evidence was given about him and intently studied paperwork relating to the matters before the jury during hearings this week.

The trial continues.