Cambridge scientist jailed for sending Theresa May fake poison

A former Cambridge University scientist has been jailed for sending fake poison to Theresa May.

Christopher Doyle, of Widnes, Cheshire, sent a white powder to the former prime minister in 2018, just a month after former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was poisoned by the nerve agent Novichok in Salisbury.

Doyle, who had held a coveted research fellow position at the top university, had addressed the letter containing the white powder to “Theresa May, c/o The Nazi Party”.

The 54-year-old scientist, whose defence claimed had been “in a bubble of pro-Russian Facebook groups”, also enclosed in the letter a cartoon poster showing the politician decapitated, a picture of former spy Alexander Litvinenko, and a message criticising the then premiere’s policy on Russia.

The mail was examined on April 5, 2018, at a Swiss Post screening facility which had to be evacuated, the court heard

Doyle, who has a PhD in neuroscience, was sentenced to two years and 10 months at Liverpool Crown Court on Thursday for sending the powder – which was later found to be harmless – in the context of the Skripal poisoning, and for making indecent images.

At sentencing, Judge Anil Murray said: “Sergei Skripal had been poisoned just about a month before this letter was opened and so the issue of poisoning was high in the nation’s consciousness.

“This was a serious offence intended by you to induce fear of danger to human life.”

Doyle had denied sending the powder but was convicted following a trial.

The court was told the scientist, who said he previously worked at Government facility Porton Down, suffered from bipolar affective disorder. The court heard he told officers he believed the powder may have been planted in the letter by MI5 or MI6.

Doyle also told police he had also written a letter to Boris Johnson criticising his attitude to Russia and a letter to then Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in which he praised him.

Mark Pritchard, defending, said Doyle had been living with agoraphobia since 2013 following the death of a friend.

He said: “He has gone from being a successful research fellow at Cambridge University to living in almost isolation.

“He has been in a bubble of pro-Russian Facebook groups to which he has been a member.”

Judge Murray told the defendant: “You are a highly intelligent man. You know the effects your condition has.

“These were not spur of the moment offences.”

Joseph Allman, prosecuting, said when police raided Doyle’s home in Fir Street they found more than 245,000 indecent images of children on a laptop.

Doyle pleaded guilty to making indecent photographs of children but Judge Murray said he did not accept his claim that he did not have them for his own sexual gratification.

Doyle was also ordered to sign the sexual offenders’ register and made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order.