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‘Clown’ poison pen letter to Queen sparked major alert, court told

White supremacist David Parnham sent similar letters containing white powder to then-PM Theresa May, two bishops and the Home Office in 2016.

The Queen was the target of one of David Parnham’s poison pen letters (Anthony Devlin/PA)
The Queen was the target of one of David Parnham’s poison pen letters (Anthony Devlin/PA)

By Emily Pennink, PA Old Bailey Correspondent

A full-scale security alert was sparked after a self-styled “Muslim Slayer” sent fake poison to the Queen with a note saying: “The Clowns R Coming 4 You”, a court has heard.

White supremacist David Parnham, 36, sent similar letters containing white powder to then-prime minister Theresa May, two bishops and the Home Office in October 2016, making an apparent reference to reports of attacks by people dressed up as clowns.

A Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear (CBRN) response was launched as a result, the Old Bailey was told.

Members of the Royal Household were left concerned for their health and the well-being of their colleagues.

Some were kept separate from other staff for hours as the substance was being identified.

Parnham also caused widespread fear and upset through a Punish A Muslim Day hate campaign, the court heard.

Democrat peer Lord Hussain told of his “total shock” at receiving one of the poison letters.

It had been forwarded to him from the House of Lords to his home address while he was unwell.

He wrote in a victim impact statement read out in court: “As I read it for the first time I felt total shock at its contents as well as fear, not only for myself but for my family, my home and all other Muslims.

“I have lived in this country for 47 years and have never before seen or read anything like this.”

Parnham, from Lincoln, has pleaded guilty to 15 offences relating to hundreds of letters penned between June 2016 and June 2018.

He has admitted encouraging murder, making hoaxes involving noxious substances and bombs, sending letters with intent to cause distress, and encouraging offences.

As he appeared in court for a sentencing hearing, a psychiatrist revealed that the defendant did not regret what he had done and did not consider it “particularly serious”.

Dr Martin Lock said: “He told me if he went to prison it would be one to two years.”

The court heard that Parnham claimed he did not remember writing to the Queen.

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Former prime minister Theresa May was targeted by David Parnhamm’s fake poison letter campaign (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

While Parnham was on the autistic spectrum, Dr Lock said he was not psychotic and expressed concern that the defendant had attempted to “mislead” medical professionals.

Another psychiatrist said Parnham was suffering a psychotic illness and had felt “paranoia and suspiciousness”, particularly towards religious groups and prominent individuals.

When Dr Paul Wallang first saw him in December, Parnham was “extremely anxious”, “fearful” and low.

Dr Wallang said: “There were very odd ideas and he talked about unusual experiences, some of which were swirling kaleidoscope colours, bed sheets being pulled from him. There were other experiences of chattering voices.”

He conceded it was “possible” that Parnham could attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of professionals.

The psychiatrist recommended a hospital order with restrictions, saying it was important to have the power to recall Parnham for “protection of the public”.

The court heard that Parnham’s activities first came to the attention of authorities in July 2016 when seven of letters were intercepted at Sheffield mail centre and found to contain harmless white powder.

A further 11 letters were identified as having been delivered.

A letter to former PM David Cameron contained the wording “Allah is great”, while letters to MPs and mosques contained the wording “Paki Filth”.

In October 2016, more letters containing white powder stated that “the clowns R coming 4 you” and were intended to reach the Queen and Mrs May.

In December 2016, Parnham sent a fan letter to Dylann Roof, a white supremacist responsible for shooting nine black parishioners dead in Charleston, South Carolina.

He told Roof: “I just wanted to thank you for opening my eyes. Ever since you carried out what I’d call the ‘cleansing’ I’ve felt differently about what you’d call ‘racial awareness’.”

In February 2007, letters were sent to various mosques and Islamic centres around the county.

A letter to Berkeley Street Mosque in Hull contained a drawing of a sword with a swastika on it cutting someone’s head off, with the words “You are going to be slaughtered very soon”.

The author signed off as “Muslim Slayer”.

In March 2017, letters were sent to addresses around the University of Sheffield campus calling for the extermination of minority racial and religious groups.

They contained suggestions on how to kill people and an offer to make a donation of £100 to charity for each death.

In 2018, the series of typed  “Punish A Muslim Day” letters were sent out to a large number of people, encouraging violence on the April 3 2018 – Roof’s birthday.

Parnham, of St Andrew’s Close in Lincoln, was caught through DNA, handwriting and fingerprints on the letters.

When he was arrested in June 2018, he refused to answer any questions.

Judge Anthony Leonard QC indicated that he would complete sentencing on Tuesday.

PA

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