EXCLUSIVE by Adam Nichols

Animal rights bomber Barry Horne has begun to refuse food again - only three months after he called off a 68-day hunger strike.

Flashback: Horne at the window of his hospital ward

The Evening Press understands that Horne, serving an 18-year sentence in Full Sutton Prison for an arson campaign, has stopped taking food for "personal reasons".

It has been denied that his action is a renewal of his campaign for a Royal Commission on animal experiments, which caused a 27-day stay in York District Hospital and cost York NHS Trust more than £11,000.

A spokesman for the Animals Betrayed Coalition said: "Any action that Barry has taken is not animal rights-related.

"This is not another protest that has started. It is a personal thing with Barry and we expect it to be resolved shortly."

Horne's supporters claimed he was close to death when he began to accept food again in December. They said he had gone blind in one eye, was going deaf and had suffered irreparable liver damage.

Although their assessment was disputed, his condition meant an appeal against his conviction had to be postponed in January.

He eventually lost the hearing when it went ahead in February.

Resuming the hunger strike is likely to have a bad effect on his already damaged health.

Prison service officials said his action was not yet being recognised as a hunger strike, although they would not deny that he was refusing food.

A spokesman said: "For a hunger strike to be officially recognised the prisoner has to have refused prison food for more than 72 hours.

"At this point there are no prisoners in Full Sutton Prison who are on hunger strike."

Any return to hunger-striking by Horne is bound to cause anger among MPs and members of the public following the disruption caused by his controversial stay in York District Hospital.

Along with the £11,000 bill, Horne's supporters camped outside the hospital, even organising a sit-in in the hospital's accident and emergency department and climbing on the roof of a hospital building to highlight their cause.

Police were warned that extremists would launch a campaign of violence if he died.

The security scare became so severe that hospital chiefs decided to postpone the official opening of the Cancer Care Haven, a specialist unit opened with money donated by the people of York.

Ryedale MP John Greenway, who spoke out against Mr Horne's stay in the hospital, declined to comment today, saying he had heard nothing about Horne's refusal to eat.

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