A kitchen porter at a £27,000-a-year public school poured bleach into a vat of soup in an attempt to poison pupils and staff, a court heard.
Maxwell Cook, 58, appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court, Bucks., charged with attempting to administer poison or a noxious substance with intent.
Cook allegedly poisoned a vat of carrot and coriander soup at the prestigious Stowe School, Bucks., with ”sanitised destainer” – similar to household bleach.
But a court heard his plot was rumbled when chefs noticed a ”horrible” odour and ”smell of bleach” coming from the soup shortly before it was due to be served.
Robert Spencer-Barnard, prosecuting, said Cook, from Brackley, Northants., was spotted by trainee chef Louise Samples pouring bleach into the soup like ”from a kettle”.
He said: ”The defendant was the pot washer and kitchen porter. The intended victims were staff and students who might drink the soup.
”The allegation is he laced the soup with sanitised destainer something he needed to use in his job sanitising kitchen utensils and unblocking drains and keeping things clean.
”Maxwell Cook poured some of this liquid into a pot of soup that was intended for consumption.
”As to the effect of ingestion the solution would cause irritation, vomiting, swelling of the throat.
”He was in fact seen by trainee chef Louise Samples. She saw the defendant at the stove area. He was pouring a clear liquid from a container into that pot of soup.
”She was able to see the label and realised it was the liquid that was usually used to clean the drains.”
Samples told the court of her ”shock” when she saw Cook pouring bleach from a white 5l container into a vat soup at 3.30pm on March 11 last year.
She said: ”I saw him pouring a bottle of sanitiser into the soup. At that point in time I was extremely shocked about what I had seen and carried on working.
”I didn’t feel myself comfortable enough to approach him.
”He was pouring it like you would if you were pouring water from a kettle into a cup of tea. I only saw him do it for about two seconds.”
The court heard that if any of Stowe School’s 660 pupils and staff had eaten the soup they would have suffered ”irritation”, ”vomiting” and ”swelling of the throat”.
But at around 4.30pm the soup was tasted by assistant chef Mark Grace, who realised it had been poisoned before it was served to pupils.
Mr Spencer-Barnard added: ”He tasted the soup to check it and noticed a sharp bitter taste and an unpleasant smell.
”Catering manager Jackie Barnett tasted the soup as well and said it tasted horrible like bleach or how bleach smells.”’
The vat of carrot and coriander soup was covered up and left in a fridge overnight.
Later on the soup was tested by a forensic scientist and found to contain chlorite, which was also present in the sanitiser.
Cook, who had worked at the prestigious school since 2007, was arrested by police on March 27 last year and denied pouring bleach into the soup.
None of the pupils were injured.
Henry James, defending, accused Samples of poisoning the vat to discredit fellow trainee chef Charlie Lambrianou who had made the soup earlier that day.
He said: ”There was rivalry between you and Mr Lambrianou. There was only job going that you were both competing for.”
However, Samples, who has not been charged with any offence, denied his claims.
Stowe School, which has around 660 boarders and 100 day pupils, charges fees of around £27,000 a year.
Previous students include Sir Richard Branson, the entrepreneur.