Chris Packham said he can’t imagine “a long and healthy life” as his fight against “tiger fraud” took its toll.
The BBC Springwatch presenter said he had been a victim of abuse and threats for years as a result of “inflammatory” magazine articles, which “kindled a fire” among those who objected to his views on animal welfare.
At the High Court on Thursday, he was awarded £90,000 in damages over the defamatory pieces, which alleged he had “manipulated” the public into making donations to save five tigers despite knowing they were safe.
Mr Packham, an outspoken advocate for animal rights, has become a target of activist attacks, which he says has led him to fear for his safety. In one incident, a Land Rover was set on fire outside his family home.
He now lives in a “cage of cameras” with his partner and stepdaughter, adding that he didn’t expect the abuse to stop with the conclusion of his libel case.
Dominic Wightman and Nigel Bean, the editor and writer of the Country Squire Magazine website respectively, have been ordered to pay £90,000 in damages for nine defamatory articles.
In addition to their claims about the tigers, Mr Packham is also said to have defrauded the public in promoting a crowdfunder during Covid and lied about burning peat during Cop26.
However, Mr Justice Saini rejected the claims, ruling that Mr Packham “has not committed any form of fraud or dishonesty”.
“Why do I live in a stockade?”
Mr Packham told The Telegraph out of court: “If I’m being honest with you, I can’t imagine living the long and healthy life I envisioned a few years ago.
“Myself, my partner, my stepdaughter occasionally live together. I am constantly on guard. We have had to improve the security of my home.
“It is not pleasant to have to live in a cage of camera surveillance and various other security measures.
“I’m just a dude who gets up in the morning and tries to make the world a better place for wildlife, animal welfare and the environment. Why do I live in a stockade?”
Mr Packham linked the Country Squire articles to an arson attack that took place outside his home in October 2021, when a stolen Land Rover Discovery exploded outside his home in Hampshire.
It parked outside the gates of his childhood home and was set on fire by a group of men just after midnight. Suspicion fell on supporters of the hunt, who had allegedly targeted Mr Packham for his opposition to blood sports.
Death threats and dead animals
Mr Packham has also had badgers, crows and foxes hanged outside his home and has claimed to have received credible death threats and excrement in the mail.
One message outlined a “list of things” the individual hoped to do with the broadcaster, including poisoning him and killing him in a car accident.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Saini said Mr Wightman and Mr Bean “failed to even come close to establishing the substantial truth” of the allegation that Mr Packham had scammed someone about the Tigers .
He said: “They did not just claim in the publications that there was a lack of care or negligence on the part of Mr Packham.
“Nor did they merely suggest a careless lack of precision by Mr Packham in claiming or implying that the Tigers were kept in cramped conditions… (they) addressed directly the most serious allegations of actual fraud and dishonesty.”
Suspects accused of ‘mocking’ autism
Mr Packham also criticized the defendants for “mocking” his autism, calling their attitude outdated and “desperately abusive”.
Country Squire articles accused the presenter of playing “the Asperger’s card” and said he blamed his “obvious meanness on Asperger’s”.
Mr Packham said: “We live in this part of the 21st century where quite frankly what my mother called mocking the afflicted – or the supposed afflicted – should be behind us. I find the behavior despicable.”
Mr Packham’s claim against a third person, Paul Read, who said he acted as proofreader for two articles, was dismissed.