70-year-old US woman living in retirement home arrested for making ricin, testing it on fellow residents

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A 70-year-old woman living in a Vermont retirement home passed her time experimenting with home-made ricin, even testing it on fellow residents, the Justice Department said on Friday (Dec 1).

No one had apparently been killed by Ms Betty Miller's activities at the bucolic Wake Robin retirement home in Shelburne, Vermont, which advertises a population of "vibrant, engaged people and a community in which you can be yourself".

But Ms Miller was arrested by FBI agents on Thursday amid fears she had stockpiled a weapon of mass destruction.

The FBI was alerted to a dangerous substance at the home earlier this week, and discovered a bottle labelled "ricin" in her residence. Tests confirmed it contained the deadly substance.

"Miller stated that she had an interest in plant-based poisons and had conducted Internet research on how to make them," the FBI said in a statement.

"She stated that she manufactured ricin in the kitchen of her Wake Robin residence and, to test its potency, placed the ricin in the food or beverages of other residents."

An FBI WMD team returned for a search of her apartment and found more ricin, and components from plants, including apple, yew, cherry, castor and foxglove, which all can be used to produce poisonous substances.

Officials "stressed that any threat posed by the substances in Miller's apartment has been neutralised", they said.

Wake Robin called the case "an isolated incident".

"The toxic substance was contained; no residents were evacuated," the retirement home said in a statement.

"The resident of the apartment in question is now involved with the criminal justice system and will not be returning to Wake Robin."