Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Extortionists James Wilson and John Cowbrough jailed for five years

Two men have been jailed for five years each for extorting £60,000 and attempting to extort £375,000 from a Fife property developer.

John Cowbrough, 47, from Airdrie, North Lanarkshire, and James Wilson, 53, from Tillicoultry, Clackmannanshire, were jailed at the High Court in Edinburgh.

They were found guilty last month of extortion between 1 January 2013 and 1 March 2013.

Between 22 April 2014 and 9 May 2014 they attempted to extort £375,000.

Dangerous criminals

They sent their victim, a property developer from Inverkeithing, anonymous letters in which they threatened to kill members of his family unless he paid £60,000. The letters were spelled out with letters cut from newspapers.

They then made anonymous phone calls in which they pretended that the letters had been sent to him by dangerous criminals and the threats would stop once the funds had been handed over. They instructed him where and when to deposit the money.

The property developer then confided in Wilson, who was a work colleague and friend of 20 years, unknowing that he was in fact behind the threats.

Wilson offered his services as a courier, telling his victim he would safely transport the money to those who were demanding it.

The property developer agreed to this plan and handed over the £60,000 which was then kept by Wilson and Cowbrough.

Second attempt

Between 22 April 2014 and 9 May 2014, the pair again attempted to extort the property developer, this time sending anonymous hand-stencilled letters threatening violence against him and members of his family unless he paid £375,000.

Again the property developer received numerous anonymous telephone calls, promising that the threats would stop once the money had been handed over.

Becoming concerned about the level of their knowledge of his movements, the property developer reported it to the police.

Following their conviction, proceeds of crime actions have now begun against the pair, and are next due to call for a first Procedural Hearing on 8 February 2016 at the High Court in Edinburgh.

Kenny Donnelly, procurator fiscal for High Court cases in the East of Scotland, said: "Blackmail and extortion of this sort can have a profound financial and emotional impact on its victim.

"I would encourage anyone who receives threatening material of this nature not to suffer in silence.

"Scotland's police and prosecutors will deal with any such allegations with the sensitivity they deserve, and will make every effort to ensure that the perpetrators are apprehended and brought to face the full force of the law."

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