Retired teacher and conspiracy theorist, 67, avoids jail after he planted bottles containing tomato sauce that he labelled ‘Novichok, instant death’ at Welsh castle months after Salisbury nerve agent poisonings
- Retired teacher John Ap Evans, 67, put bottles of fake ‘Novichok’ in tourist spot
- Bottles, filled with tomato and brown sauce, were planted in Pembroke Castle
- Evans claimed he was trying to create an artwork for the Turner Prize
- He was handed 21-month suspended sentence and 200 hours of unpaid work
A retired teacher who planted bottles labelled ‘Novichok’ at a Welsh castle only months after the Salisbury poisonings has avoided jail.
‘Conspiracy theorist’ John Ap Evans, 67, put bottles of a fake noxious substance, made from tomato sauce and brown sauce mixed with water, in Wogan’s Cavern at Pembroke Castle on five separate occasions in July 2018.
Two of the bottles were labelled ‘Novichok’, which was the lethal nerve agent used to try to assassinate Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia the year before.
Swansea Crown Court was told Ap Evans was arrested after a secret camera at the castle filmed a suspect and a police officer later identified him while walking near his home.
Retired teacher John Ap Evans, 67, (pictured) has avoided jail after he planted multiple bottles filled with fake Novichok, made from tomato sauce and brown sauce mixed with water, at Pembroke Castle
Simon Davis, prosecuting, said: ‘The chemical known as Novichok gained notoriety after Sergei Skripral, his daughter Yulia and Detective Sergeant Nick Bailey were victims of a nerve agent attack in Salisbury in March 2018.
‘The effects of the chemical were further made known after Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley were poisoned in Amesbury in June 2018. Dawn Sturgess subsequently died as a result of the poisoning on July 8.
‘Those events were detailed in national news reports.’
Mr Davis said that Evans has conducted a number of internet searches, including: ‘Salisbury nerve agent attack: the truth’, ‘Novichok formula’, ‘victims of Parsons Green’ and ‘where are the Skripals?’
The court heard that after the first bottle was discovered by a member of the public on July 13, the castle was evacuated and closed.
‘Instant death, Novichok’: One of the bottles Ap Evans left in Wogan’s Cavern in July 2018
Experts from Porton Down, who were working on the Salisbury poisonings at the time, were sent to Pembrokeshire to investigate.
Samples of the liquid were tested and scientists could not find traces of any known poisons.
In a victim personal statement, castle caretaker Jason Kenny said the incidents had caused ‘so much worry’.
‘Just hearing the word Novichok makes you think of the Salisbury incident where people died,’ he added.
Following his arrest, Ap Evans admitted his guilt and said he had done it as a ‘bit of fun’.
‘He believed the Novichok thing in Salisbury was a lot of lies and he didn’t know why he had done it,’ Mr Davis said.
‘He wanted people to be aware of what happened in Salisbury was harmless and he carried on as he hadn’t been caught.’
Later, Ap Evans retracted his original admissions and attempted to claim he was creating an art installation for the Turner Prize.
‘He had written on the bottles as a joke to see if this ‘ridiculous art’ as he described it, would win the Turner Prize,’ Mr Davis said.
‘He took 12 bottles to a recycling bin when he was approached by two males who he suspected to be drug dealers.
‘They took the bottles from him, suggesting they were responsible for putting the bottles inside the castle.’
Swansea Crown Court heard that after the first bottle was discovered by a member of the public on July 13, the castle (pictured) was evacuated and closed
At an earlier hearing Ap Evans, from Pembroke, Pembrokeshire, pleaded guilty to five counts of a hoax involving a noxious substance under section 114 of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.
Ap Evans, who represented himself, maintained in mitigation he was trying to create an artwork.
‘There was nothing malicious in whatever I had done,’ he said.
Passing sentence, Judge Paul Thomas QC said Ap Evans had caused a great deal of disruption to the emergency services and a financial loss to the castle.
‘It was, despite your protestations, an entirely malicious series of hoaxes – deliberate, repeated and pre-planned,’ the judge said.
The judge imposed a 21-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered Evans to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and attend rehabilitation activity days. He was also ordered to pay £2,400 compensation to the castle
‘The final four placing of bottles, although they did not trigger the same response, were carried out by you knowing what had happened before and the publicity that had attracted, and I have no doubt that amused you.
‘You are in academic terms an intelligent man but you are, however, an incredibly stupid and foolish one.
‘You entertain many delusional beliefs and suffer from distorted thinking about a variety of subjects.
‘You are what is known commonly as a conspiracy theorist, from what I suspect, a folie a deux.
‘I regret to say that in many ways you are a sad and pathetic individual who wanted to bring some excitement into their life via embarking on this stupid escapade.’
The judge imposed a 21-month jail sentence, suspended for two years, and ordered Evans to complete 200 hours of unpaid work and attend rehabilitation activity days.
He was also ordered to pay £2,400 compensation to the castle.
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