Motive for 1080 blackmail threat challenged

6:21 pm on 22 February 2016

An Auckland businessman who threatened to contaminate infant milk formula with 1080 has rejected the Crown's argument that he did it for money.

Jeremy Hamish Kerr

Jeremy Hamish Kerr Photo: RNZ / Todd Niall

Name suppression has lapsed for Jeremy Hamish Kerr, who has admitted two charges of attempted blackmail relating to threats in November 2014 but disputes the Crown's version of why he did it.

Crown prosecutor Christine Gordon QC said the blackmail letters to Fonterra and Federated Farmers were motivated by financial gain.

Ms Gordon told a disputed facts hearing in the High Court in Auckland today that Kerr wanted the government to ban 1080, which would have helped sales of a rival possum control poison, Feratox, for which he received royalties.

The Crown alleges the declining need for possum control was reducing sales of both poisons, creating financial pressure on the businessman.

In a police interview played at the hearing this afternoon, Kerr said he would be worse off if 1080 was banned.

"It might help, but in the short term, but it certainly wouldn't help in the long term. Other products would have to come along. I would actually be worse off. It would open the door for lots of other products - there's zinc phosphide out there, that would be the logical replacement. That would really hurt me if that came into it."

He was not opposed to 1080 as such, calling it an excellent poison, but said agencies used it irresponsibly and should probably be held accountable.

Kerr's motivation is being considered at the disputed facts hearing prior to his eventual sentencing. At the time of the businessman's appearance in court last December, his lawyer, John Billington QC, said his client disputed parts of the police summary of facts.

The hearing is set to continue tomorrow.