THREE men and a boy have appeared before Blackburn magistrates charged in connection with the takeover of the Thwaites brewery by travellers in May.

One of the adults is charged with blackmail after he allegedly told the firm’s chief executive officer he could get the travellers to leave within an hour if he handed over £20,000.

All the defendants are charged with burglary at the Blackburn brewery and criminal damage.

Enza Geldard, prosecuting, said the value of the damage caused was estimated at £244,000.

She said copper wiring had been removed from the site along with computers and other electrical goods.

Flooding was caused by an overturned cooler and 1,700 pints of beer had to be poured away because of fears of contamination. As a result of the incident brewing has now ended at the site.

Thomas Ward, 43, of the Stables, Aspull, Common, Leigh, was sent in custody to Preston Crown

Court. John Ward, 33, of the same address and Patrick Ward, 32, of Banner Street, Ince, Wigan, were granted bail on condition a surety of £2,000.

All defendants will appear at Preston Crown Court on July 30.

The 16 year old juvenile, who faces the same charges of burglary and criminal damage, was remanded on bail until the same date.

Two other members of the travelling community arrested at the same time have been released pending further inquiries.