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Woman cleared of spiking colleagues’ coffee with Viagra | England


England

Karen Beale, a former factory cleaner, was found not guilty by a jury at Canterbury crown court

Thu 25 Jan 2024 15.43 CET

A woman has been cleared of poisoning colleagues with instant coffee spiked with ground-up Viagra tablets.

Karen Beale, 62, described as someone who wanted to “help people, not harm”, was found not guilty by a jury of seven men and five women at Canterbury crown court.

Beale, a former factory cleaner, claimed she had been “set up” when she was filmed checking a jar of instant coffee that police later found had been laced with sildenafil – an erectile dysfunction treatment sold under the brand name Viagra – and a medication for high cholesterol.

Beale told the jury she had checked one Nescafé Blend 37 coffee jar “under instruction” from the general manager of Envirograf, a factory that makes fire protection products in Dover, where she worked.

She had denied two offences of attempting to administer a poison or other destructive or noxious thing with intent to injure, aggrieve or annoy between November 2017 and September 2018.

Beale thanked the jury as she was released from the dock.

At the end of the trial, the judge, Simon Taylor KC, ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the coffee.

Beale was arrested in September 2018 but it took more than five years for the case against her to be heard.

After the verdicts had been returned, Taylor told jurors the delay had been due, in part, to the Covid pandemic. At a pre-trial hearing in December last year, the judge had remarked that the court “owed Ms Beale an apology” for such a lengthy wait.

The trial heard she was secretly filmed allegedly fiddling with the jar of instant granules in September 2018. The covert camera had been placed in the spine of a lever arch file after the firm’s accountant, Katrina Gravenor, began to notice a strange taste, blue and white specks and a slurry in her drink.

“Not what you would expect to be in Nescafé,” said prosecutor Matthew Hodgetts at the start of Beale’s trial.

In the 13-minute footage, Beale could be seen wearing blue latex gloves as she picked up the jar and occasionally shook it. Though none of the chemicals were toxic, the prosecution alleged that she “hoped and intended it would have some effect”.

Beale, who had lived in Dover but later moved to Shropshire, had previously worked as therapist based in Faversham and then her home. In a character reference provided to the court, a former client described her as someone with “integrity and compassion” who would “help people, not harm”.

Giving evidence at her trial, Beale denied tampering with the coffee or having any reason to do so. She said she had been told by the general manager, Paul Ackerman-Mond, about Gravenor’s concerns and was asked “keep an eye on” the coffee.

In his closing speech to the jury, her barrister argued that the camera footage had not come from an “impartial, disconnected” source.

“There is no footage of how the substance came to be in there. How have the contaminants got into the coffee? Why is it we have all this footage but we don’t actually see anything going into the coffee?” Ben Irwin asked the jury.

What we see is Karen Beale looking at the coffee carefully. Perfectly consistent with her case.”



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