Woman convicted of sending powder to politicians

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A woman was yesterday convicted of sending six envelopes containing white powder to parliamentary figures including Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

The letters were intercepted, three at a time on two separate occasions, at a mail screening centre and the powder was found to be non-hazardous, Harrow Crown Court in west London was told.

The defendant, who is known as Sister Ruth Augustus, denied six counts of hoaxes involving noxious substances or things.

But a jury took less than two-and-a-half hours to find her guilty by a majority verdict of 11 to one on all counts following a three-day trial.

Mr Justice Saunders deferred the case until September for a hearing at the Old Bailey while a medical report is prepared on Augustus’s mental health.

She was released on bail on condition that she “does not contact, directly or indirectly, any MP or senior Government official” unless through her solicitor, the court heard.

Augustus, 71, of Leyton, east London, accepted that she sent envelopes with letters in them but claimed police put the white powder in them, the court was told.

Mark Kimsey, prosecuting, said three envelopes were intercepted at a mail screening centre in east London on June 17 last year.

A worker was checking mail at 5.30am when three envelopes raised concerns.

One was addressed to Mr Clegg and on the envelope was written “devil worshipping”, “freemason”, “sex with 30 plus women” and “your poor Catholic wife and children”.

The second was to Baroness Scotland, and had a swastika on it and two crosses, and “stop this evil devil worshipping”.

The third was to Baroness Kennedy, and was endorsed with a swastika, and “stop these evil devil worshipping freemasons”.

The envelopes contained a gritty substance, but it was found they had already tested negative for anthrax, and specialist police who were called in found them to be non-hazardous.

On October 1, at the same place, three more envelopes were found, addressed to Mr Clegg, Lady Kennedy and MP Edward Leigh.

The envelopes carried similar endorsements and slogans and contained white powder which was found to be non-hazardous.

On December 7, Augustus was arrested at a hotel where she was staying in north west London and told police “It’s a load of lies”, Mr Kimsey said.

The trial heard that Augustus told police during interview: “I’m Sister Ruth, a 71-year-old disabled nun.”

She also said: “I look like a terrorist, don’t I, working for a charity all over the world, with orphans?”

The jury heard that she told interviewing officer Detective Constable Anne Adams: “The police are run by freemasons. All the top women are in it.”

Asked why she had sent a letter to Mr Leigh, she said: “He’s a Catholic, and goes to Westminster Cathedral.”

Augustus turned to the public gallery as she left the court and said she would be appealing against the verdict.