Peter Hoskin

Bomb plots & snail mail

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I've been tipped off to the following Press Association story, and figured it would make for a perfect end-of-the-working-day respite from MPs and their expenses.  Do make sure to read to the last paragraph - that's where the punch-line is, so to speak:

Man jailed for Tesco blackmail plot

Press Association

Monday January 28, 2008 12:48 PM

A former tax inspector has been jailed for six years for a £1 million blackmail plot against supermarket chain Tesco.

Philip McHugh, of Milton Avenue, Clitheroe, Lancashire, sent 76 letters threatening to bomb Tesco stores across Britain last summer.

The 52-year-old also threatened to contaminate Tesco products if they refused to comply with his demand for money.

The judge at St Albans Crown Court said McHugh was guilty of a sustained and serious effort to extort money from the chain.

McHugh, who was addicted to online gambling and had debts of £37,000, began his campaign last May with a series of letters to Tesco offices in Dundee. In the letters McHugh threatened to contaminate food in Tesco stores unless he was paid £100,000.

When this tactic failed, he sent a series of increasingly threatening letters to the supermarket chain's headquarters in Hertfordshire. He demanded that Tesco transfer £200,000 into his bank account to stop him putting caustic soda in yoghurt sold in the store.

When this tactic also failed, McHugh sent hoax bomb warnings to 76 Tesco supermarkets, warning of what McHugh called "Black Saturday".

He said bombs would go off at the stores on Saturday, July 14.

As a result, 14 Tesco superstores including branches in Clitheroe, Port Talbot, Grimsby and Glasgow were closed, costing the supermarket chain an estimated £1.4 million in lost revenue.

Due to delays in the postal service, the remainder of the letters were not received until after the bomb threat had expired.

  I'm not sure whether it's funny or tragic...