The programme showed new evidence, previously unseen by the public, and it was very clear that this was a targeted and orchestrated attack by individuals intent on sending Chris a sinister message.
You can watch the Crimewatch Live episode here and the arson attack is the first feature, but this recording is only available on BBC iPlayer until 10.45hrs tomorrow morning (seems a bit ridiculous that a programme relying on help from the general public to solve crimes is only available online for 24hrs) so I’ve also transcribed the discussions and screen grabbed some of the images. [UPDATE: thanks to the blog reader who sent a link to the archived recording on YouTube here].
Presenter Rav Wilding: Last October, TV presenter and conservationist Chris Packham was the target of an arson attack right outside his home in the New Forest. Earlier I spoke to Chris and also Detective Inspector Howard Broadribb from Hampshire Police to find out more about what happened that night.
Chris Packham: Yes, October 8th, myself and the dogs went to bed, rather early for us at just before midnight, and then shortly after half past 12 there was an enormous explosion, that was the first I knew of the incident. The car had clearly exploded, the bang was tremendous, I mean the dogs flew off the bed and started yelping and barking straight away. Where I live we’re not prone to any sort of loud interruptive noises at night so it was quite startling, and then of course it came to pass that this vehicle had been parked outside the gate and was ablaze, thankfully attended by the fire service and the police of course, who manged to douse the flames. It had by that stage destroyed the gates, damaged a lovely old tree that’s by the gates there which obviously saddened me as well. But it wasn’t until the morning that we were able to fully assess the damage. The car was completely burned out, it got so hot the engine block had melted so it was quite an explosion.
Rav: Goodness me. I know that since this happened, Chris, you have upgraded security at your home but this clearly must have had a big impact on not only you, your family, your animals as well?
Chris: Yeah, I mean since the threats started a few years ago, and they’ve been manifold in different forms, so we’ve had death threats, initially in the post, we’ve had people posting us human excrement, and animal excrement, and other offensive items, I’ve worked really closely with Hampshire Police, they’ve been absolutely superb, I cannot commend them enough for the care, attention and diligence that they’ve shown, and they’ve also offered a lot of advice about how to improve the security.
A long time ago I remember listening to a Yoko Ono song, one of the lyrics was, ‘A neurotic builds a castle, a psychotic lives in it’. I’ve never wanted to live enclosed, I’ve wanted the freedom to express my views and ask people to change their minds, but subsequent to this upscaling of the threats we have again taken police advice and increased the security at the property.
But as you say, it’s quite frightening, it’s a direct attack if you like, rather than dead animals being left outside which I’m afraid has become quite commonplace. It’s an upscaling and yes, my partner, who is relatively resolute, was certainly perturbed. My step-daughter, who’s grown up in a theatre where I have been campaigning and has perhaps been even more used to the threats, is concerned about my welfare more than anything else, to be quite honest with you.
Rav: Oh Chris, it’s just awful, everything you described and I really hope today we can get some answers for you, but thank you for joining us.
Chris: Thank you.
Rav: I’m going to go now and speak to the officer dealing with this case right now, this is Detective Inspector Howard Broadribb from Hampshire Constabulary. Awful, what we’re hearing from Chris there, so what do you know about what happened on the night of this incident?
Detective Inspector Howard Broadribb: So, Chris mentioned the 8th October but we’ve put together a time line and what we know is it actually started on the 7th October, where a Mitsubishi Shogun [the get-away vehicle] was purchased from an address in Somerset. That then came into Southampton on the 7th and during the course of the afternoon/evening it’s made several trips between Hampshire and Dorset.
Just after 7pm it uses a petrol forecourt in Bournemouth, which is a Co-op forecourt, where it draws petrol into that vehicle.
Rav: And we can just see images of that now, so what do you know happened after that?
DI Broadribb: So we also know now that on the evening of the 7th around 11 o’clock at night and midnight a Land Rover Discovery was stolen from an address in Marchwood, which is also in Southampton. We know that the Land Rover Discovery and the Shogun travelled in convoy and at 22 minutes past midnight the Shogun is seen to drive past the entrance to Chris’s house, shortly followed by the Discovery, where the driver’s turned the lights off, drives down and parks directly outside the gates to Chris’s home.
He [the driver of the Discovery] then spends three minutes and 40 seconds, which is a long time, setting fires inside that vehicle. He’s not afraid of being caught, he’s not panicking, he then very casually walks away towards the direction of where the Shogun was parked up. You can see, the Land Rover’s been completely destroyed as Chris has described, destroying his gates, absolutely terrifying.
Rav: Yeah, we can see that now, the devastation, and it’s just awful what happened, let alone the amount of damage that was caused to this property.
So, at the time, you didn’t have any witnesses that had come forward, this is a very rural location, but you’re still hopeful that someone can help today?
DI Broadribb: Yeah, you’re right, this is a very rural location but again, going back to that time line, what we do know is this began with the Shogun being purchased in Somerset. When it was bought, the people who bought it loaded it onto a Ford Transit low loader and that was then used to bring the car back to Southampton.
What’s unusual is the low loader is a Ford Transit bearing the number plate BU06 HDY; actually that’s not the number plate for that vehicle. That belongs to another completely different low loader. So, I’m looking for anyone who saw that low loader with the Shogun on the back, being driven, who was driving it, any passengers, on that day?
Rav: That would be really significant – so the number plate that was on that low loader is not what it should be?
DI Broadribb: Correct.
Rav: Ok, and we’ve got details of that on the screen. Also, you would like to know about who was actually putting the fuel in that car. We’ve got a still image of that person there.
DI Broadribb: Absolutely, and it’s a really clear image of someone putting petrol into that car, so I want to know who that is. That is on the 7th October but equally if you saw someone driving that vehicle [Shogun] around the 7th/8th or even since then, I’d like a name of who that is, and also if you’ve seen that vehicle since I’m really keen to find that vehicle. Equally the low loader, we’d like to recover that as well. If you’ve seen who’s driving it, passenger, again, contact me.
Rav: Could be some crucial info there. Have a good look, do you recognise any of the vehicles? Or do you recognise this driver? If you have any information it really could help police catch the people responsible. If so, please do get in touch, our number is 08000 468999.