Chris Packham fears hate-fuelled psychopath could kill him in woods, libel trial hears | UK News

Chris Packham has told a court he fears for his and his family’s security – and that he does not “expect to live a long life free from violence and intimidation”.

On the second day of a libel case which he initiated, the TV star said he was a “victim of a campaign of vile and relentless intimation”, adding: “I do go to walk my dogs in the woods and wonder: is today the day that a psychopath fuelled by all this hate turns up and kills me?”

The BBC Springwatch presenter, 61, is suing three men over allegations in nine articles relating to his involvement in Wildheart Trust, a charity that runs a wildlife sanctuary on the Isle of Wight.

Mr Packham told the High Court trial he believed the “defendants’ unsubstantiated claims have misled, agitated and fuelled a vocal and violent conspiratorial fringe who increasingly post threatening and vile material about me and my family”.

Chris Packham at the Royal Courts of Justice, London, for his libel trial over alleged tiger-related fraud to begin. The environmentalist is bringing a High Court libel claim over articles which he says falsely alleged he misled the public into donating to a wildlife charity to rescue "broken" tigers from circuses. Mr Packham is suing the editor and two contributors of the website Country Squire Magazine. Picture date: Tuesday May 2, 2023.

The environmentalist said his post had often been stolen and “random dead animals and human faeces are regularly posted to me”.

“I have become accustomed to the plethora of dead animals people leave at my home,” Mr Packham went on.

The TV naturalist is suing Dominic Wightman, editor of the online site Country Squire Magazine, along with writer Nigel Bean and a third man, Paul Read.

Mr Packham has been accused of defrauding and manipulating people into making donations to the charity to rescue tigers while knowing they were well cared for.

Mr Packham denies the allegations

It is also alleged he dishonestly raised money for the charity at the beginning of COVID while knowing it was due to receive a £500,000 benefit from its insurance. Mr Packham has strongly denied the claims.

Mr Wightman and Mr Bean’s lawyers said the articles in the claim could be defended as true, while Mr Read said he was not responsible for the publications as he was a “mere proofreader”.

In a 50-page witness statement, Mr Packham said: “I genuinely no longer expect to live a long life free from violence and intimidation.

“Because it may only take the one wrong person to read Country Squire Magazine for things to go horribly wrong.”

Mr Packham said his “deeply held views” had attracted criticism from people who shoot and fox hunt – while revealing details of the threats he gets.

Read more: Chris Packham defiant after arsonists target his home

BBC presenter Chris Packham's front gate. It was burnt after someone set a Land Rover alight.
Chris Packham’s front gate was burnt after arsonists set a vehicle alight

‘Masked attackers burned down gate to his home’

He also said that “masked attackers” in October 2021 set fire to a car and burned down the gate to his home, with police said to believe the arson was carried out by paid professionals.

Nicholas O’Brien, a lawyer for Mr Wightman and Mr Bean, said the allegations in the articles in the claim were true and could also be defended as under the public interest.

The barrister said: “It is clear that the tigers had not been rescued from a circus, were not then in need of rescue, and were not rescued by Mr Packham.”

But Mr Packham said it was correct to use the word “rescue” when talking about the tigers and a move to the sanctuary.

He has called the allegations against him “ridiculous, utterly unfounded, and plainly designed to be as upsetting, threatening and reputationally damaging as possible”.

Mr Packham denied fraudulently raising money for the charity, adding that “we weren’t hopeful that we would be insured against COVID-19 closures”.

The trial before Mr Justice Saini is due to end on 12 May, and a decision is expected at a later date.