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Ex-company director is convicted of terror offence for sending parcel of his wife’s cooking labelled ‘biohazard’ to debt collectors as they chased him for unpaid council tax


A former company director has been convicted of a terror offence after he sent a package of his wife’s cooking labelled ‘biohazard’ to debt collectors. 

Andrew Cowell, 55, sparked a major security alert after he sent a parcel to the Leicestershire-based enforcement agency Rundles and Company Ltd with plastic bags featuring the word ‘biohazard’.

An office worker checking mail at the company was left shocked when a mysterious yellow liquid spilled out onto her desk, which Cowell later claimed was leftover cooking made by his unnamed wife. 

He sent an accompanying letter on the same day in which Cowell described himself as ‘hostile and very angry’ before sending another just two weeks later telling staff: ‘Be careful when someone has nothing to lose. What is your address again?’

Mr Cowell, who had been behind on council tax payments and faced losing his house, said he had been ‘tormented’ by the debt collectors for over a year while dealing with ‘declining mental health’ at the time. 

Andrew Cowell, 55, who has been convicted of terrorism after he sent a package containing some of his wife's cooking labelled 'biohazard' to debt collectors

Andrew Cowell, 55, who has been convicted of terrorism after he sent a package containing some of his wife’s cooking labelled ‘biohazard’ to debt collectors

Cowell, pictured outside court, sparked a major security alert after he sent a parcel to the Leicestershire-based enforcement agency Rundles and Company Ltd

Cowell, pictured outside court, sparked a major security alert after he sent a parcel to the Leicestershire-based enforcement agency Rundles and Company Ltd

At Tameside magistrate court, Cowell pleaded guilty to charges of sending a letter conveying a threatening message and sending a noxious substance ‘namely food items’ as a hoax under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. 

He was sentenced to 12 weeks in custody suspended for 12 months and was ordered to pay £378 in costs and surcharge.

When quizzed Cowell, from Pendlebury, Salford, Greater Manchester, claimed the liquid was leftover cooking made by his unnamed wife. It is thought investigations were carried out but the source of the liquid was not positively identified. 

Gareth Hughes, prosecuting, said: ‘The offences are outlined by Paul Clayson. He is the administrator for Rundles and Company Ltd, a business described as operating as an enforcement agency working on behalf of local authorities for the collection of unpaid fines, council tax etc

‘They have been dealing with Mr Cowell for that reason. Mr Clayson described being sent letters and parcels which “caused myself and other staff to feel distressed”. 

‘The address of the company is written with a thick black marker pen. The post code was slightly wrong which enabled the identification of any parcels before they were opened.

‘On May 11 2022, an office worker opened the parcel and liquid leaked onto her desk. Contained in the parcel was a yellow biohazard bag containing a pale yellow liquid. 

When quizzed Cowell, from Pendlebury, Salford, Greater Manchester, claimed the 'biohazard' was leftover cooking made by his unnamed wife (Stock image)

When quizzed Cowell, from Pendlebury, Salford, Greater Manchester, claimed the ‘biohazard’ was leftover cooking made by his unnamed wife (Stock image)

‘There were two letters. In them he described himself as a hostile and very angry male. The letter was written in an aggressive tone.

‘On May 25 2022, a further letter was sent which was in fact a letter sent to Mr Cowell he returned with further text added to the back of the letter, which was again of a threatening nature.

‘One statement was warning, “Be very careful when someone has nothing to lose. Where is your office again?” ‘

In a statement Mr Clayson said: ‘With the nature of our business, it is not too unusual to receive such letters. People are caused anger by our involvement.

‘I did not feel distress at the first letter. But later, when a further letter was received written in black marker pen and the incorrect postcode, I was careful following the earlier incident.

‘There was a yellow plastic bag with biohazard written on it. It was a printed plastic bag. I was wearing protective gloves pulling it out of the bag.

‘Our letter we sent him had a stain of a reddish brown colour, it looked like dried blood. It had a musty smell like a dried blood smell.

‘That was not opened and police were called. We passed all the items to the police.

‘It is normal for someone to be angry and upset. I do not expect to receive a substance that could cause harm.

‘Some girls feel uncomfortable providing a statement. They feel upset. We are all cautious when receiving parcels.

‘I am concerned about future incidents and how it could escalate. I do not know this male. I feel that he is targeting the business and putting people at risk. I am not sure what the risk is but that is what is distressing.’

When Cowell initially faced court in November 2022 he refused to enter the dock to identify himself and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He was then locked up and initially pleaded not guilty before changing his plea on the day of trial.

Tameside magistrate court where Cowell pleaded guilty to charges of sending a letter conveying a threatening message and sending a noxious substance

Tameside magistrate court where Cowell pleaded guilty to charges of sending a letter conveying a threatening message and sending a noxious substance

His solicitor Chris Squibbs said: ‘He committed these offences at a time of extreme stress. Attempts were being made to seize his house and potentially other assets and he dealt with the situation extremely badly.

‘The report makes reference to alcohol being a coping strategy and declining mental health.

‘The Andrew Cowell before you now, today, is probably a manifestly different Andrew Cowell in terms of health and how he perceives things.

‘He has paid the debt with the council. He has paid the money he owes them and wants to work on his demons. When he is well he will seek work. He has an extensive history of work before he became unwell.’

Cowell was also given a six-month community order with requirements that he attends 10 days of rehabilitation with the probation service and a six-month alcohol treatment programme. 

He told the court: ‘I have no income. I was tormented by these people for over a year.’

But JP Catherine Meek told him: ‘During these matters you showed absolutely no consideration for the effect your actions had on those people.

‘They were sitting in the office minding their own business, trying to do their job, and received threats like this. You put them into fear with the biohazard bags. You intended to cause fear and distress and intimidate the people just doing their job.

‘We feel the offences are so serious that only custodial sentences are appropriate. However, we have decided to suspend the sentences. Consider yourself lucky, you have a suspended sentence.’



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