by Ben O’Rourke
To millions of people, Chris Packham is a loveable celebrity who appears slightly anarchic and obsessed with animals. To at least an equal number, he’s a danger to a way of life, trying to kick shooters off grouse moors to replace heather moorland with trees or threatening the governments in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland with court action unless they toughen their stances on pest bird shooting.
Fieldsports media has pointed out the inconsistencies in Packham’s words and actions. Packham recently responded by threatening one editor, Dominic Wightman from Country Squire Online magazine, and two of his staff, writer Nigel Bean and tech guy Paul Read, with court action.
Dominic’s publication highlights big cats that Chris boasted the Isle of Wight zoo saved from cruelty at the hands of a Spanish circus owner. It turns out that the cats were not only donated to the zoo but were well treated by the circus.
At a preliminary hearing in court in March, Packham’s legal crew admitted Country Squire’s reports were correct and the big cats were donated. However, they have not dropped their case.
Since the case became public, Dominic has been inundated with death threats and abuse from Packham supporters. Nobody involved in the lawsuit wants to talk about it before the court hears them.
Chris Packham, too, says he has had death threats from fieldsports supporters. A handwriting analyst with decades of experience, hired by Dominic Wightman, spoke to Fieldsports News about her role. Beverley East is a forensic document examiner. She’s has been checking whether papers are faked for more than 30 years. Wightman asked her to compare Packham’s script to a death threat-letter he claims he was sent. She says she’s “never physically spoken” to Dominic after he emailed her to “look at some documents”; the letter and some forms Chris had to fill in about one of his companies.
Beverley’s assignment was “to identify whether the handwriting was the same on the anonymous letter” by comparing it “with known handwriting”.
Packham says he received the letter in April 2019. Since then, two handwriting analysts hired by the Scottish Gamekeepers Association identified Chris as the writer with almost 100% confidence. Beverley agrees.
“There were specific characteristics within the foundation of the writing that identified it as one person,” she says. “Whereas somebody else could create certain letters exactly the same, when somebody creates specific characteristics within their writing it’s hard for them to disguise it again because that has become part of their habitual-writing pattern.”
In plain English, people who write have a style they don’t realise they have and it’s almost impossible to hide.
“Sometimes it’s simple things like alignment where they start on the margins… numbers are a good indication.”
Beverley says of these styles when it comes to letter fakers. “They don’t focus on numbers. They focus on thinking if I just do block print, and if I just do this and that, then I won’t be recognised, but there’s still specific characteristics in all of us. It’s almost like a fingerprint.”
It took her 45 minutes to compare Packham’s death threat letter to other examples of his writing.
“I go through the principles carefully, although the Ds and the Ts popped out very quickly,” she adds, referring to what she was taught decades ago and noting the weird disjointed Ds that appear both in the death threat and the government forms. It doesn’t end there.
“Although you are comparing letter by letter, which is also a part of what we call form, there are other principles that we have to look at. Where does it start? Where does it finish? Looking at the space in between the letters and looking at what we call line quality, which is the characteristics within the actual letter. Most people when they’re looking at something they’re looking with their naked eyes. So… I’m looking with magnification and with magnification, you can find much more things.”
Since Beverley doesn’t have the original documents, the quality of writing or pens used is not clear. Content doesn’t factor in the equation, even when there are bullets attached to notes.
“When I was asked, I wasn’t quite sure what this person was trying to achieve,” says Beverley of the anonymous writer. “What we, as examiners, have to remember is that we have to be the independent voice, the unbiased voice. So I try not to know too much of the story.”
Beverley, who is from Jamaica, has had minimal contact with Wightman and doesn’t know who Packham is or what he gets up to.
“I still haven’t Googled him or anything because if I have to go and testify, I don’t want all that information in my head. I just wanna work on what I was given to examine,” Beverley says. “Cause you can go off on a tangent. ‘Oh, this person’s crazy. Oh my God, this person’s done this.’ Then you’re not really looking at what was given to you, you know, it kind of filters in all that bias. I’m the unbiased, because what people always like to say is that, ‘Oh, you were paid so you were told, you said that because you were paid. Yeah and I have not spoken to… is it Dominic? I don’t even know his name cause he usually just emails me as Dom.”
You can hear what Dominic Wightman has to say about antis and how he’s dealing with them on the Fieldsports Britain stage at this year’s Game Fair.