Award-winning TV film maker kidnapped and tortured by animal rights fanatics. -By Daniel
Foggo. November 7, 1999.
The investigative journalist who
exposed Animal Liberation Front terror tactics has been subjected to a horrifying revenge
ordeal - taken captive and tortured with a branding iron.
Graham Hall, whose documentary film
Inside The ALF won top television awards, thought the kidnap gang were going to kill him.
Instead they burned the initials ALF across his bare back.
And last night the ALF's official
spokesman Robin Webb issued a chilling warning to 43-year-old Mr Hall and any others who
seek to undermine the organisation's increasingly widespread network of stop-at-nothing
He denied any knowledge of the
attack on Mr Hall but said: 'People who make a living in this way have to expect from time
to time to take the consequences of their actions.'
Mr Hall will be permanently scarred
by the barbaric mutilation. Channel 4, which showed the film in a Dispatches programme
which won this year's BAFTA news journalism award and also a Royal TElevision Society
award, has offered to pay for plastic surgery to help minimise the impact of the branded
letters. Mr Hall, who works by secretly filming as he infiltrates iniquitous operations
ranging from badger baiting to drug dealing, admits he has also been mentally scarred.
'Recovering from the psychological
effect of this will take a long time,' he said last night. 'But I am determined to carry
on my work.'
Much of his work is directed against
cruelty to animals but he was appalled at ALF tactics. Robin Webb told Hall how to
construct a bomb, while fellow member Gaynor Ford took him on a tour of sites she had
targeted with terrorism.
But to Mr Hall's surprise, police,
who had hoped to use his video evidence to prosecute Webb, Ford and another man David
Hammond, quietly dropped the case.
After his kidnap ordeal - his
captors duped him into a meeting pretending they could identify a dog-fighting ring - his
torturers warned him not to go to the police.
'I was told they would kill me if I
did,' said Mr Hall. 'But I am making a statement because they cannot be allowed to get
away with it.'
Last night West Mercia Police
confirmed they were investigating. Robin Webb denied any knowledge of the incident but
criticised Mr Hall for his filming methods.
'What was filmed was heavily edited
and very selectively,' he said. 'I told my lawyers that there was nothing in the unedited
tapes that could be used against me in any way. I can't speak for Ford and Hammond. They
are beyond the pale of the movement.'
A Channel 4 spokesman said last
night: 'Graham Hall is one of this country's leading investigative journalists who has
taken considerable risks to uncover corruption.'
'His undercover work in the
Dispatches programme, Inside The ALF, was absolutely central in exposing the dangerous
fanatics at the core of that organisation.
'We are horrified at the barbarous
attack and are offering him whatever possible support.
PART 2 OF THIS ARTICLE:
By Daniel Foggo and Edward Hynds
When his name was announced as the
winnder of the BAFTA for best documentary, Graham Hall could afford a smile of quiet
The award, the highest that British
TV can bestow, was for his brilliant exposÚ of the fanatics behind the Animal Liberation
Front... the extremist group which eagerly resorts to violence and terror tactics in its
mission to end all animal suffering.
During months of painstakingly
covert filming, Hall had pieced together a shocking and compelling documentary which blew
the lid off the ALF.
Members of the group were shown
boasting of numerous bombings and arson attacks.
And when the programme was broadcast
11 months ago as part of Channel 4's Dispatches series it sparked a storm of anger,
fuelling the controversy raging then over jailed hunger-striker and ALF activist Barry
So the BAFTA - and a second award
courtesy of the Royal Television Society - seemed a just reward for Hall's efforts.
What's more, it seemed that justice
would take its course elsewhere after plice said they were keen to seek the prosecution of
the three key ALF activists in the documentary.
But six months after those heady
award ceremonies, Hall's life has changed suddenly and dramatically, leaving him
horrifically scarred both mentally and physically.
A fortnight ago he was stunned to
hear that police had decided to take no action against the documentary's ALF protagonists,
Robin Webb, Gaynor Ford and David Hammond.
Days later Hall - whose 20-year
career has included numerous exposÚs of animal abusers, such as badger baiters and dog
fighters - was kidnapped by unknown ALF thugs and subjected to an ordeal of extraordinary
barbarity, during which the 4in-high letters, ALF, were burned on his upper back.
The 43-year-old filmmaker was kept
captive, blindfolded, bound and told he was going to die before the branding.
His tormentors made it clear the
permanent mutilation was 'justice' for his documentary - and if he made any further
transgressions against their 'righteous' crusade he would be killed.
In the war between the animal rights
and 'pro-countryside' lobbies, this latest action has brought the increasingly bitter and
dirty struggle to an horrific new low.
As hall says: 'Even I underestimated
them. They are highly organised and totally obsessed - they'll stop at nothing. That
conflict is now out of hand and ready to explode.'
Such a statement does not easily
pass from the lips of someone like Hall, and old hand who has braved death threats from
gangs of drug-smugglers, illegal cartels, dog fighting rings and other criminals.
His talent for infiltrating their
operation using his own scruffy appearance and unassuming demeanour has also led to more
than 70 convictions. And it has also produced some of TV's most watchable and dramatic
Hall, a lifelong supporter of
animals rights himself, became involved with the ALF at the end of 1997 when he was
approached by Gaynor Ford.
"I was in Portsmouth
distributing leaflets for my UK Animal Watch campaign, which fights badger-diggers, when
this woman came up and started chatting,' he said.
'Soon she was telilng me of all
sorts of things she had done, from blowing up boats to setting cards on fire, all in the
name of animal rights. They would target fox-hunting people, animal experimenters,
laboratories - that sort of thing.'
'I bleieve there'es never an excuse
for breaking the law. But I wanted to talk to her further - with a secret camera on me.
Through Ford, he also came into
contact with two other influential ALF members, former soldier David Hammond and the
organisation's spokesman, Robin Webb. 'I made sure none of them knew I was in contact with
the others,' he said, 'because that way they would tell me what they thought of each
During filming, Hall liaised closely
with Hampshire detectives in case his evidence would be useful. The result was that when
Webb - who ha salways tried to distance himself from acts of violence - was caught on tape
giving instructions on how to make the best bombs, police considered its value second only
to a written confession.
Ford and Hammond - who has ALF
tattooed on both temples - were similarly allowed ample rope with which to hang themselves
Ford insisted on taking Hall around
a guided tour of the places she had targeted with her terrorism. At Wickham Research
Laboratories, where animals are subjected to tests, she crowed: 'Seven cars we done. Yeah,
paint-strippered. Really brilliant.'
Not surprisingly, Hall was furious
at the police decision not to prosecute the three... but what happened next put any pain
he felt then into sharp context.
'I had been contacted by a guy
called "Mark" whom I'd met a while giving out leaflets,' said Hall. 'He said his
brother was involved in dog-fighting and he would like to see him punished for it.'
'I spoke to him three or four times
on the phone over five weeks and we eventually agreed to meet at a pub in Herefordshire
where he would point out his brother.'
'The plan was that I would start
frequenting the pub wearing a British Field Sports badge and wait for him to start talking
to me,' said Hall. 'The meeting was arranged for 8pm on October 26. We were to meet on a
road with woodland on one side and open ground on the other.' Then we'd go to the pub.
''I got there first and sat on my
vain bonnet. I could hear little rustlings in the undergrowth and, ironically, I thought
they were badgers. 'Usually, I go everywhere with my dog Dennis, who would be capable of
putting four or five men in hospital if I was threatened.'
'But that night I didn't have him
with me - he was in kennels. At other times I go to meetings with someone accompanying me.
This time I was alone but had no reason to suspect I was being set up.'
'Mark pulled up in front of me in an
Escort van and I went over to say "Hello". The next thing I know he had kicked
me in the groin and I doubled up in agony.
"at the same time I was aware
of a number of men, at least four, jumping out of the trees and grabbing my arms. They
told me: "If you struggle, you're dead, you bastard".
'Something which felt like a gun
barrel was put against my temple and I thought I was a dead man. Then they forced a hood
over my head, knocking my glasses.'
'Before I lost my vision I caught a
glimpse of the registration of the van they were in - the first three digits were E77.'
'They bundled me in the back and sat
on my legs. I felt pure fright. I couldn't breathe properly in the hood and my arms felt
as if they had been pulled out.'
'The van started driving and I tried
to keep track of the turns it was making but it was hopeless. The journey lasted at least
an hour and a quarter but we could have been going around in circles.'
'I thought I was being taken to my
execution and I'm not ashamed to admit I was so frightened that I wet myself.'
'Eventually, the van stopped and I
was frog-marched to a house where they put me in a chair with my hands and feet tied up. I
could hear them muttering things to me like "scum" and "bastard", but
they were making efforts to stay quiet.'
'However, I recognised one voice.
The last time I had heard it was in a milling crowd of animal rights protesters outside
Bristol Crown Court when Barry Horne was sentenced last year. I had gone there to meet
Robin Webb for the first time.'
'I don't know his name and I can't
place his face but his voice had stuck with me.'
'They left me for a few hours like
that. I could hear shufflings outside the room. I could smell cannabis, too. Then I heard
footsteps and someone said: "Let's have a look at these tattoos of yours so everyone
will know who you are".
'By that, he meant they wanted other
members of the ALF to be able to identify me in future in case I infiltrated them again.'
'The next thing I knew someone had
pushed my head down and between his legs and I felt and excruciating pain across my back.'
'I could smell burned skin and I
realised I was being branded. One of them said: "Justice has been done" and
another chuckled "The justice department" - the name that part of the ALF gives
Hall had been seared across an
expanse of his back measuring 4in by 9in with the letters 'ALF' - and the branding iron
had obviously been fashioned specifically for the task.
Hall believes it was either heated
on an open fire or gas ring before. 'The pain wasn't too bad at first,' he said. "I
suppose my nerve ends were cauterised... but after a few minutes it became so unbearable I
wet myself again.'
'They made a big joke of that. And
they threatened me and my family and said they'd torch my home.'
After nearly 12 hours, Hall was
grabbed and marched back to the car where he was again sat on and driven off.
On reaching a deserted stretch of
road, his hand and feet were freed and he was thrown out of the van while being told: 'If
you go to the police or the Press, you'll die.'
Hall said: 'I sat by the road and
cried for quite a while. I didn't know what they had branded on my back and I needed to
know what they had done to me.'
'They had left me feeling raped and
violated. I'd have much preffered a pasting because bruises heal and bones mend... but
they've left their mark forever.'
Hall hailed a passing motorist and
hitched a lift back to his car.
When he arrived at the Midlands
house he shares with his wife and their two children, she was too horrified to even look
at his back. She took her husband to hospital where equally shocked medical staff treated
him with antiseptic and a gauze dressing.
Knowing the ALF's penchant for the
terror tactic of poisoning merchandise, Hall feared his wound may have been deliberately
infected with something, but doctors assured him that the heat applied to his skin would
have rendered any foreign bodies harmless.
For the next 24 hours Hall thought
hard about whether he should heed the ALF warning and keep his ordeal to himself.
Then that indignation he has always
exhibited when faced with blatant injustices began to resurface. He told David Monaghan,
his friend and producer at Channel 4, who reported the attack to the police.
Hall is now giving a formal
statement to CID officers and, with similar defiance, he has told his story to The Mail on
Police are also studying a tape from
his CCTV home surveillance system which last week picked up an intruder attempting to
climb into his garden carrying what looked like a pickaxe handle. Hall's wife also saw the
man, who quickly retreated. Otherwise, detectives have previous few clues to work on.
Intriguingly, Hammond had written to
Hall last June, six months after the documentary had exposed him as a thug.
In the vaguely ominous letter, he
said: 'Dear Graham, I thought I would drop you a line to see how you are. Long time no
hear or see? I expect you are busy undercover? Still, it's what you're good at. I was in
--- recently and actually went by your house. I could not stop on this occasion but next
time I'll pop in and say hello to your Mum. Maybe hear from you soon. David Hammond.'
Hampshire police have refused to
discuss why they chose not to prosecute anyone as a result of Hall's TV documentary.
In a statement they said: 'It has
been decided that factors revealed in the course of the investigation - and not connected
with the published television programme or the programme makers or the supporting material
provided by Channel Four - have led to the conclusion that a prosecution should not be
Meanwhile, Channel 4 has offered to
pay for plastic surgery to help to conceal the letters on Hall's body, and he is awaiting
an appointment with surgeons to discuss skin grafts.
Healing his mind may take a lot
'I have been badly shaken by this
but it will not deter me from carrying on,' he said. 'I will not rest until I bring these
men to justice... and it won't be the sort of justice they deal in. They are terrorists,
not animal rights campaigners. They can't function without violence.'
'They have done this to me because I
hurt them with my film. They wanted to get back at me, pure and simple.'
But there was more than a trace of a
gleam in his eye as he added: 'I don't do this job for a buzz. Nor do I get kicks out of
it. It is the challenge which motivates me - and now I have a real challenge.'
'One day I will infiltrate the ALF
again. And next time they won't get away with it.'