By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — A Scot was questioned by gardai for two days recently about a bizarre blackmail plot that threatened mass murder by poisoning of the British water supply unless Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed to pull out of Northern Ireland.
The man, Adam Busby, 50, a former British army soldier, was described by Garda sources as a "Walter Mitty-type character." He was detained under Section 30 of the Offenses Against the State Act following a month-long investigation and a file is prepared for the director of public prosecutions.
The threat of a " campaign of chemical warfare" was made in the name of a previously unknown group Republican Revenge.
Letters sent in the name of the group demanded a commitment to "total British military and political withdrawal" from Northern Ireland by June 16.
The threats had been under investigation in a joint Scotland Yard/Garda operation. On June 15, Fleet Street editors were called in to the British cabinet office and asked to maintain a news blackout.
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The plot apparently involved using paraquat weedkiller in drinking water supplies.
Though the security forces did not rate the threat highly, there was serious concern it could cause widespread panic. A contingency plan involving water tankers and bottled water had been drawn up.
"From what we know of what was threatened, the actual risk to health involved would have been negligible," one Garda source said.
The threats were made in letters on June 10 and 11 to Prime Minister Tony Blair via British Ambassador in Dublin Ivor Roberts, the papal nuncio in Dublin, Archbishop Luciano Storero, and the industry’s Ofwat water regulator headquarters in Birmingham.
Garda Special Branch detectives arrested Busby for questioning about the threat.
A grandfather, he is originally from Paisley in Scotland and claimed to be the leader of the Scottish National Liberation Army.
The group was nicknamed the tartan terrorists and members were monitored by MI5.
He has lived in Ireland since 1983 and has successfully fought off attempts by the British Government to have him extradited.
An attempt to extradite him in 1984 for criminal damage to an army truck failed after the courts ruled the alleged offense was political.
In 1996, he was charged with a series of alleged offenses, including sending incendiaries between January and March 1995. It was claimed the improvised devices were sent in envelopes to Blair at Labor Party headquarters in London and to the then Shadow Scottish Secretary George Robertson.
The letter-bomb charges were dropped and he pleaded guilty to sending a message of a menacing character to the Press Association and the Daily Record in Glasgow and was jailed for two years by the Special criminal Court.
The circumstances surrounding those threats were bizarre. They were headlined "Headquarters communique of the Scottish National Liberation Army."
Police said Busby took them to a photocopying shop in Dublin and asked the shop to fax it to five media outlets.
The fax used the codeword "spear" and referred to Operation Flame and Operation Hammer. It was not clear whether the plans were simply fantasies.
It contained a hit list of targets in Scotland, including an MP and three regional councilors, and referred to the rapid escalation of operations. There would be random no-warning attacks on British "colonists" in Scotland.
The court was told he had previous convictions in Scotland for which he had received a number of prison sentences.