| Horsemeat scandal: Owner of Yorkshire abattoir denies wrongdoing|
|Peter Boddy, the man at the centre of the latest twist in the horsemeat scandal, is fondly known locally as Greengrass, after the colourful character in the ITV drama series Heartbeat.|
Boddy's slaughterhouse, which perches on the hills above the Pennine town of Todmorden, was raided on Tuesday when West Yorkshire police and inspectors from the Food Standards Agency arrived, telling staff to gather their belongings and leave. Customer lists and other paperwork were then seized.
Hours later, as the snow began to fall and the first journalists arrived, there was no sign of the owner and the entrance to the farm was blocked by a tractor.
Three young men stood guard forcibly stopping anyone who tried to approach the farm. At one point, as tempers frayed, the tractor was driven at speed down the narrow lane scattering the gathered reporters on to the verge.
The Food Standards Agency said in a statement that it believed the Boddy Licensed Slaughterhouse supplied horse carcasses to the company Farmbox Meats, in Aberystwyth.
Production at the slaughterhouse has subsequently been suspended amid investigations into claims it passed off horse meat as beef for processed foods.
Boddy has denied any wrongdoing. He has said he will co-operate with FSA officers. Speaking to the local paper the Hebden Bridge Times, on Wedsnesday morning, he said he was innocent. "I am seriously fed up. This is totally wrong and I will be going to see my solicitor this morning … I have done nothing wrong."
The forceful reaction from Boddy and the men at his farm drew chuckles of recognition from shoppers and traders in Todmorden. "Oh yes, he is a character all right," said Brian, as he shopped in Stansfield and Sons butchers in the centre of the town."
On one of the company's websites it states that Boddy has been "involved in agriculture and the meat trade for over 50 years". Traders in the town say he is a well-known character who supplies a range of meat to butchers.
"He's been around here for ever," said one butcher who asked not to be named. "I've known him for more than 20 years and my dad for longer. He supplies three of the four butchers here with meat – game, veal venison, lamb that sort of thing."
Another butcher, James Stansfield, said the slaughterhouse, which he thought had been running for more than 20 years, had expanded its operations in the last couple of years investing in new equipment.
"It always seems a regular, properly run, operation and everything is tagged and correctly labelled. We've never had any complaints," said Stansfield.
Boddy, whom residents say lives with a long-term partner and children, has also run, for 20 years, a "live animal capture" operation, helping farmers and others catch deer or escaped livestock.
According to neighbours this meant Boddy often had a range of unusual animals on his premises alongside the more usual livestock, animals such as wallabies, ostriches and even a porcupine.
"He has all sorts up there. People sometimes slow down to look as they drive by because it can be quite a sight," said one butcher. "But he also likes to pull people's legs; he tells them he has an elephant and a silverback gorilla, and in a way he does – big plastic models that he has bought to put in the field!"
In 2007 Boddy was embroiled in a row when he helped catch and sedate seven cows that had gone into a nearby wheat field. Government vets later told the farmer to kill the animals as they had been sedated with drugs that were not safe to enter the food chain. At the time Boddy said he had done nothing wrong insisting the "drugs were perfectly legal" and adding that the cattle were for breeding not human consumption.
The Boddy abattoir is small, officially classified as a "low-through-put" plant, which meant it had its official meat inspector withdrawn two years ago since it no longer was large enough to need one. Official records for last year say it slaughtered 44 horses.
The company also has a meat cutting plant on the same site. Deregulation in 2006 ended the requirement for cutting plants to have official inspectors present during processing.
At the farm on Wednesday Boddy was still refusing to speak to national journalists, and police patrolled the narrow lane to help ensure tempers were kept in check.
As the snow began to settle at lunchtime in Todmorden, Mark Catterall, a local councillor, said he was worried that the focus on the town could damage its growing reputation for sustainability and high-quality, locally sourced, food.
He said: "We have made real progress in that area and had a visit from Prince Charles in recognition of our success, so I hope that people don't lose sight of that because of this – especially as we do not know what has happened yet."
In Todmorden, traders were sure that both Boddy and the town would survive the horse meat scandal. "He is a pretty laid back character, sort of rolls with what life throws at him," said one butcher. "My guess is this will be a dent but he will bounce back all right."