A man who sent packages containing white powder and threatening letters to primary schools, shopping centres and businesses has been jailed for nearly a decade. 

Gary Preston, 63, from Haverhill was investigated by the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) which found he targeted educational facilities, airports, shopping centres, shopping centres and local authorities. 

At Woolwich Crown Court on April 18 he was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison and put on the Sex Offenders' Reigster for life. 

The judge sentenced him to five years and three months' for the indecent assault, four years and three months' concurrent for each of the hoax offences, and 12 months concurrent for possessing an offensive weapon. 

Through the investigation it was found Preston had sent letters to recipients across the UK including addresses in Essex, London, South Wales, Surrey and Yorkshire between September and October 2013.

All of the letters contained an undisclosed white powder and several packages also included "warning" notes telling the readers to run or hold their breath. 

The substance was later found to be talcum powder. 

He had no connection to any of the establishments. 

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East Anglian Daily Times: Preston sent packages across the UKPreston sent packages across the UK (Image: Suffolk police)

Preston was identified as the main suspect after DNA was matched to some of the packages following his arrest for a separate offence in July 2020. 

As detectives continued enquiries, Preston's fingerprints were also found to match those on another of the packages with further specialist analysis of the letters also indicating his involvement. 

In August 2023 he pleaded guilty to 21 counts of sending a hoax substance.

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Preston was also sentenced for an indecent assault at knifepoint against a woman in Rainham, Essex ,which happened in 1988. 

Hannah Wilkinson, head of ERSOU's counter terrorism policing unit, said: "By targeting places such as primary schools and airports, there's no doubt that Preston had set out to cause as much distress as possible. 

"It is also clear that, by sending these packages to more than 20 organisations across the country, he had spent significant time planning and attempting to cover his tracks.

"It's a positive outcome that Preston will now spend a significant spell behind bars."