A BLACKMAILER has been jailed for four years after pleading guilty to demanding £10,000 from a man in Thirsk.
Thomas James McDowell, 26, contacted the victim on December 13, 2018, using an unknown number and said ‘You’re a f****** dead man, you’ve messed with the wrong family. I want my money’ and ‘I’m coming for my money’ before the line went dead.
After trying to the call the number back and texting to the blackmailer to say he had got the wrong person, the victim received a series of text messages. The messages demanded the victim hand over £10,000, showed that the blackmailer knew the victim’s home address, car and registration plate, and stated ‘If I don’t get paid today I’m blowing the car up’.
Enquiries showed that the mobile phone that was used to blackmail the victim was linked to McDowell after he was identified on CCTV by a local police officer purchasing a top-up voucher for the phone.
He was arrested the next day and a search of his home recovered some food items, that were purchased at the same time as the top-up voucher, along with the voucher.
Investigations showed that clothing seized from McDowell during the time of his arrest was also shown to be the same clothing as worn by the person in the CCTV footage buying the top-up voucher.
It was also revealed during the investigation that McDowell was known to the victim and owed the victim £1,200 which had been borrowed months earlier. In interview, McDowell denied all allegations put to him and refused to comment on a number of questions but entered a guilty plea at court.
In a statement read to the court the victim described how his family was uprooted from their home on two occasions leading up to Christmas saying: “We will never get that time back with them (his children) and I feel we will always be haunted with the memories of that awful Christmas and this experience still impacts on our daily life. For over a year my family have had to wait for this moment of justice. I have had to see this man walk around town and past my office without a care in the world nor any regret for what he put my family through. "The impact this has had has changed our whole family dynamic which make me feel incredibly sad.”
After pleading guilty to blackmail at court, McDowell, of Market Place, Thirsk, was sentenced to four years at Teesside Crown Court on Thursday, February 27, 2020. He was also given a restraining order and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £170.
Commenting on the sentence Detective Sergeant Chris Parker-Beagrie of Northallerton’s CID team said: “This was a terrifying crime committed on a hardworking man and which has had a major impact on both him and his young family. Thankfully, McDowell left behind a trail of evidence that enabled us to quickly identify and arrest him.
“I hope the sentence handed down today shows the severity of McDowell’s crimes and highlights the police’s zero-tolerance approach towards offenders of blackmail.
“Finally, I want to praise the victim and his family for their bravery throughout this investigation. I know that it has been an extremely distressing time for them but I hope they are offered some reassurance that that justice has been served and McDowell is now in jail where he belongs.”