Pubdate: Sun, 24 Dec 2000
Source: Sunday Times (UK)
Copyright: 2000 Times Newspapers Ltd.
Contact:  PO Box 496, London E1 9XW, United Kingdom
Fax: +44-(0)20-782 5658
Authors James Clark and Andy Goldberg


AN ACADEMIC who was to have lectured Britain's top law enforcement 
officials on how to catch drug traffickers has been accused of being the 
mastermind behind one of the world's largest illegal LSD factories.

William Leonard Pickard Jr, a former Harvard research associate who moved 
to the University of California, was preparing for a conference on drug 
trafficking to be held at Windsor Castle and to be attended by Jack Straw, 
the home secretary, and Keith Hellawell, the government's drug czar.

The conference was planned for March, and Pickard, 55, was expected to 
supply his expert knowledge on drug sales. Now he has been charged with 
conspiracy to supply LSD, after police raided the drugs factory inside an 
old nuclear missile silo in the Kansas backwoods.

Local sheriffs and America's Drug Enforcement Agency found that the silo, 
which already had its own filtered air system and wells, had been fitted 
with a whirlpool bath, Italian marble tiling and a ?60,000 audio system. In 
what local police called a "James Bond villain set-up", Pickard, it is 
alleged, used his scientific training to create LSD on a massive scale. The 
agency discovered enough raw material to produce about 10m doses a month.

During the raid Pickard, a marathon-running vegetarian, allegedly sprinted 
into thick woods nearby and evaded bloodhounds, helicopters with infrared 
searchlights and more than 50 police for 18 hours. He was caught on 
November 7 after falling asleep in a rented van, according to the 
Pottawatomie county sheriff, Anthony Metcalf.

Drug culture: police called the factory a 'James Bond set-up' Pickard 
insists he was framed, and at a court hearing last Wednesday two Britons 
testified that he was trustworthy. Lord and Lady Neidpath, of Beckley Park, 
Oxford, sent a letter saying Pickard had helped them to plan the conference 
on "Drugs and Society".

"We find it difficult to believe . . . he can be involved in anything 
criminal," their letter said. "He has always been kindly, reliable and 
extremely helpful. He is also well known in the academic community."

The Neidpaths made news in the 1980s after undergoing trepanning, a 
centuries-old practice of drilling holes in the head, sometimes to improve 
creativity, that gained a small following in the 1960s.

Neidpath, son of the Earl of Wemyss, taught as an Oxford professor, 
counting the young Bill Clinton as one of his international relations 
students. The hole in his head "seemed to be very beneficial", he said in 
1988. His wife, Amanda, stood as an MP in the 1970s on a platform of 
"trepanation for the national health".

Speaking from California yesterday, where the family are spending 
Christmas, Neidpath said: "My wife and I are in the process of organising a 
series of consultations on the theme drugs and society. We met Leonard 
Pickard through his position as director of the Drug Policy Analysis 
Programme at UCLA [the University of California, Los Angeles].

"He was able to put us in touch with many of the key public officials and 
academics in the field in the US."

According to the Neidpaths' letter, Pickard "could not have been more 
helpful" in organising the Windsor conference.

"He has always shown himself to be reliable . . . and we have all grown 
very fond of him."

His background has undoubtedly given him a certain expertise in drugs. In 
1976 he was arrested for allegedly making LSD, and a few months later, 
while a chemistry student at San Jose State University, he was convicted of 
setting up a drug lab and served 18 months in custody.

In 1980 he was arrested in Florida for selling MDMA, a hallucinogenic 
substance used to make ecstasy. Five years later a federal judge in San 
Francisco sentenced him to six months in jail and five years' probation for 
a false passport offence, and in 1988 Pickard was picked up as he left a 
warehouse used as an LSD laboratory.

He faced 20 years in prison if convicted, but the drug charge was dropped 
because he had been an informant, a court affidavit says.

These brushes with the law did not prevent him from pursuing an academic 
career. In 1994 he began work as a research associate in neurobiology at 
Harvard Medical School's division on addictions after winning a fellowship 
to study drug policy and addiction.

Last week Hellawell insisted that he had never met Pickard, and a spokesman 
for Straw said the home secretary was not aware of having met him either. 
However, both men were due to take part in the Windsor conference.

Pickard, described as a "classic 1960s San Fransico hippie", and his 
alleged accomplice, Clyde Apperson, 45, a computer consultant, both deny 
the charges against them. A full pre-trial hearing is planned for next month.
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