Film-maker 'branded in attack'

BBC News/November 16, 1999

An investigative documentary maker who exposed extreme elements within the Animal Liberation Front was kidnapped and branded across the back with the letters "ALF", it has emerged. Graham Hall, who has exposed drug-dealers and badger-baiters in earlier films, faces plastic surgery after the horrific attack scarred a large area of his back.

The BBC's Damian Grammaticus reports: "He claims he was kidnapped and branded" Channel 4, which screened Mr Hall's programmed as part of its Dispatches series last year, confirmed he had been branded and offered him "every support."

Mr. Hall, 43, filmed ALF members boasting about bomb-making and choosing sites for violent attacks, although police eventually decided to press no charges.

He said tonight he had been kidnapped on 26 October, after arranging to meet a man who said he could expose a dog-fighting ring.


'Feared for his life'

Mr. Hall told the Mail on Sunday that as soon as he had met the contact he was attacked by a number of men and bundled into a van.

He told the newspaper the men put a hood over his head and pressed what appeared to be a gun against him.

"I thought I was being taken to my execution and I'm not ashamed to admit I was so frightened that I wet myself," he said.

Mr. Hall - who says he recognized among the voices of the attackers one connected with previous ALF activity he had witnessed - said he was taken to a house and tied to a chair for some hours.

"The next thing I knew someone had pushed my head down and between my legs and I felt an excruciating pain across my back," he told the Mail on Sunday.

He had been branded by a massive iron spelling the letters ALF, a scar some 4 inches wide and across most of the width of his back.

Hall said that after nearly 12 hours he was eventually freed and thrown out on to the road, with a final warning that if he told the police or the media "you'll die."


'Barbarous act'

A Channel 4 spokesman said: "Graham Hall is one of the country's best undercover journalists and has taken considerable risks to uncover wrong-doing and corruption.

"His undercover work in last year's award-winning Dispatches programme Inside the ALF was also central in exposing the dangerous fanaticism at the core of the organization.

"Channel 4 is horrified by this barbarous act on Graham Hall and has offered him every support possible."

A spokesman for West Mercia Police said it would look into the claims.

He said: "We are aware that an article is going to appear in the Mail on Sunday. We would stress that no official complaint has been made to us by anybody.

"However, we will look at the situation again in the light of what the article reveals."

Mr. Hall's maverick methods have earned him awards and plaudits from within the television industry, but have also proved controversial with mainstream animal rights groups.


ALF man denies responsibility

Robin Webb of ALF - one of the activists at the center of the Dispatches program - was adamant he knew nothing about the attack.

He said: "I suppose I am someone who would have a reason not to like Mr. Hall, but almost two weeks after the alleged attack no one from the police has been in contact, which seems to indicate they don't think I am connected.

"Mr. Hall's program was edited to take quotes totally out of context, and I always told my lawyer I had no fears about prosecution.

"The ALF's policy has always been that there should be no harming life in its work, and we abide by that.

"There are probably many people with grudges against Mr. Hall because of his films over the years, but this attack has nothing to do with us."

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