Blackmailer jailed after bus-stop trap

THE man behind a blackmail plot that was foiled by police in an undercover operation in Bulwell has been jailed for eight years.

Gary Penwarden (48) demanded £33,000 from a Loughborough businessman and pub owner and said he would “destroy everything” the man had unless he paid up, Nottingham Crown Court heard.

But he was snared after Leicestershire police carried out a ‘drop-off’ of £11,000 at a bus-stop on Low Wood Road, Snape Wood Estate on December 1 2009.

A friend of Penwarden had been paid to collect the cash and took it back to his home. But officers eventually traced the money back to Penwarden, of Arnside Road, Leen Valley, Nottingham.

The court heard that Penwarden told his victim the money was a debt owed to his mother.

After initial threats, a fire caused £15,000 worth of damage to the businessman’s pub, and gunshots were fired at his home.

The man was even prepared to sell a car to meet Penwarden’s demands. But then he decided to involve the police after four months of threats, which started in August 2009.

Leicestershire officers, one of whom was disguised as the extortion victim, followed instructions from Penwarden and dropped the cash off at the bus stop, which was surrounded by red and white tape.

A man picked up the bag, moved behind a lamp-post and ran through a hedge.

Later police went to the man’s house and a white van belonging to Penwarden was in the driveway.

The man who collected the money left and Penwarden was spotted carrying a plastic bag before getting in the van and driving home.

Penwarden pleaded guilty to blackmail at a previous hearing.

After the case, the victim, who has not been named, said: “This has been a traumatic and very worrying time for me and for my family and has affected our lives in many ways. We don’t know why this has happened to us.”