Chris Packham said that he cannot imagine “a long and healthy life” as his “tiger fraud” libel battle took its toll.
The BBC Springwatch host said he had suffered years of abuse and threats as a result of “incendiary” articles from a magazine, which “lit a fire” beneath 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 claimed that he “manipulated” the public into making donations to rescue five tigers despite knowing they were safe.
Mr Packham, an outspoken animal rights campaigner, has become a target for activist attacks, which he said left him fearing for his safety. In one incident, a Land Rover was set alight outside his family home.
He now lives in a “cage of CCTV” cameras with his partner and stepdaughter, adding that he did not expect the abuse to stop with the conclusion of his libel case.
Dominic Wightman and Nigel Bean, the editor and writer of Country Squire Magazine website respectively, have been ordered to pay £90,000 in damages over nine libellous articles.
Alongside their claims about the tigers, Mr Packham was also said to have defrauded the public when promoting a crowd funder during Covid and lied about the burning of peat during Cop26.
However, Mr Justice Saini dismissed the claims and ruled that Mr Packham “did not commit any acts of fraud or dishonesty”.
‘Why am I living in a stockade?’
Speaking outside the court to The Telegraph, Mr Packham said: “If I’m honest with you, I don’t imagine living the long and healthy life that I might have imagined a few years ago.
“Myself, my partner, my stepdaughter, share habitation from time to time. I’m constantly on my guard. We’ve had to upgrade the security of my house.
“Having to live inside a cage of CCTV and various other security measures is not pleasant.
“I’m just a bloke who gets up in the morning trying to make the world a better place for wildlife, animal welfare and the environment. Why am I living 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 house in Hampshire.
It parked outside the gates of his family home and was set alight by a group of men just after midnight. Suspicion fell on pro-hunting supporters, supposedly targeting Mr Packham over his opposition to bloodsports.
Death threats and dead animals
Mr Packham has also had badgers, crows and foxes strung up outside his home, and claimed to have had credible death threats and excrement sent to him through the post.
One message outlined a “list of things” the individual hoped to do to the broadcaster, which included poisoning him and killing him in a car crash.
In his judgment, Mr Justice Saini said that Mr Wightman and Mr Bean “fail[ed] to come even close to establishing the substantial truth” of the allegation that Mr Packham defrauded anyone over the tigers.
He said: “They did not merely allege in the publications that there was some lack of care or negligence on the part of Mr Packham.
“Nor did they suggest merely a careless lack of precision by Mr Packham in which he stated or implied the tigers were being kept in cramped conditions… [they] went straight for the most serious allegations of actual fraud and dishonesty.”
Defendants accused of ‘mocking’ autism
Mr Packham also criticised the defendants for “mocking” his autism, calling their attitudes outdated and “desperately insulting”.
Country Squire articles accused the presenter of playing “the Asperger’s card” and said he blamed his “obvious nastiness on Asperger’s”.
Mr Packham said: “We live in this part of the 21st century when frankly what my mother called mocking the afflicted – or the presumed afflicted – should be well and truly behind us. I think the behaviour was despicable”.
Mr Packham’s claim against a third individual, Paul Read, who said he acted as a proofreader on two articles, was dismissed.