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Tuesday, 07 July 2015

Bank blackmail man from Cumbria spared jail

A 71-YEAR-OLD widower who was a pillar of his local community hatched a bizarre plan to blackmail a South Cumbria branch of the HSBC Bank.

Retired businessman Peter Gould was himself the victim of a £70,000 fraud, and was desperate to recover cash which was meant to be an inheritance for his two sons, Carlisle Crown Court heard.

The pensioner spent a year meticulously planning his crime before eventually donning a pair of rubber gloves and delivering his typed ransom note to the bank.

But police set up a sting operation, posing as bank staff as they left a car parked at Minlnthorpe Cricket Club, with a rucksack in the boot stuffed with fake cash.

Police pounced as Gould arrived in his Jaguar car to collect the money.

The pensioner, of Robby Lea Drive, Natlands, Kendal, who recently underwent a quadruple heart bypass, admitted a single count of blackmail.

Prosecutor Dick Binstead described how the defendant personally delivered his ransom demand to the HSB Milnthorpe branch on the morning of June 14 last year.

He said: “Bank clerk Sue Ramsden opened the letter at 9.15am. It had been delivered that morning and retrieved from the post box.

“The letter commenced in this way: 'You are going to prepare for us £150,000 in used notes, with no silly trackers or markers.’

“Initially, she thought it was a prank but as she continued reading she realised fairly quickly that it was something far more serious.”

Over two A4 sheets, the letter warned what would happen if the bank contacted the police or refused to comply with the demands. If he was not obeyed, said the blackmailer, he would rape female members of staff, and send “heavies” round to harry bank staff and their families.

Having carried out his own surveillance, following some bank staff home, Gould also mentioned their home addresses – and even likened one male worker at the branch to the famous Charles Dickens character Mr Pickwick.

“Mrs Ramsden immediately recognised [the reference] because the member of staff did bear some resemblance to that Dickensian character,” said Mr Binstead.

Later that morning, Gould followed up his letter with a phone call, using a mobile he had bought two years earlier using a false name.

Staff were “extremely disturbed” by the letter, and one woman needed extra anti-anxiety medication, the prosecutor told the court.

Posing as bank staff, police arranged to drop off the ransom, using fake cash in a rucksack, left in the boot of a car at the Milnthorpe Cricket Club car park on June 19.

It was as he arrived that officers arrested the bespectacled, white-haired Gould, who sat impassively in the dock yesterday.

In his Jaguar car, police found two mobiles, including the one he used to phone the bank. Gould later told police he used the internet to research his crime, and he also considered blackmailing a prosperous London club.

Kim Whittlestone, mitigating, said the pensioner suffered a depressive illness after the death of his wife in 2009.

A man of hitherto impeccable good character, who came from a loving and supportive family, he was stoic and kept his worries to himself.

He ran successful businesses and was a director of his local rugby club.

“It’s extremely bizarre that a man of his age should commit such an offence,” she said, adding that he now feels extremely remorseful.

Imposing a two year jail term, suspended for two years, Judge Barbara Forrester said she felt it unlikely Gould would ever trouble the courts again, saying of his blackmail plan: “Clearly, it was doomed to failure from the outset.”

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