A blackmailer who threatened to expose a middle-class professional’s secret life as an escort was jailed for 14 months yesterday.
John Menzie set up an elaborate plot to try and force the woman to hand him £10,000 to keep her secret identity hidden from her family and friends.
The 56-year-old planned to stage a movie style “drop” for the money, which he needed to pay off substantial debts.
His victim went to the police and his scheme – which was branded “amateurish” by his own lawyer – unravelled.
Dundee Sheriff Court heard how Menzie told the woman to pay him £10,000 in “used notes” to avoid her secret being exposed to her employers and members of her family.
He posted her a letter which read: “Do you remember the old saying, your past is creeping up on you? Well, yours is about to rear its ugly head.”
Menzie had discovered the woman’s secret and pretended he had video footage of her in a hotel room with a client.
Fiscal depute Eilidh Robertson said: “For a period in 2016 she worked as an escort by advertising her services online under a pseudonym.
“No-one in her life is aware that she has undertaken this work, including her partner and her children.
“The accused found out about the work she had undertaken, as a friend of his had spotted her on the adult website.
“On the morning of 4 February 2020, the complainer saw a letter sitting on her doormat addressed to her.
“The letter went on to claim that the writer had hired the complainer as an escort and had secretly filmed the encounter between them in a hotel room.
“It went on to say: ‘Since that night I have done a lot of digging and research and have found out many things, i.e. your real name.
“‘Can you imagine what this will do to you and your family? Employment? Your life? So what price would you put on this?’”
The court was told the letter went on to demand £10,000 cash and warned the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons, had less than a week to pay up.
Menzie’s letter said: “Warning – you will not discuss this with anyone. I have made arrangements to have the information I have to be passed on to the relevant people if anything should happen to me.
“I will tell you where you make the drop. You will be followed so make sure you are alone. There will be someone with a black crash helmet on. He is a rider for a courier company and nothing to do with me.”
Miss Robertson said the complainer was extremely worried by the letter and the impact it could have on her family. She had no idea who was responsible.
When CCTV was reviewed a person matching Menzie’s description was seen lurking near her home around the time the letter was delivered.
The accused was arrested at home on February 8.
Miss Robertson said: “He said that although he claimed in the letter to have a video, this is false and he does not in fact have a video of her.
“This would appear to be accurate given he has never in fact hired the complainer for her services and was merely pretending to be a former client.”
Solicitor Gary McIlravey, defending, said: “It is a serious offence but this was conducted in a fairly amateurish way. It was not well thought through.”
Menzie, of Gleneagles Road, Dundee, admitted trying to extort £10,000 from the woman, by threatening to expose her past in Dundee and Perthshire on February 4.
Jailing him and imposing a ten year non-harassment order, Sheriff Alastair Carmichael said: “Your solicitor described what you did as amateurish but it was still organised and planned by you.
“This was a particularly unpleasant case of attempted extortion, because of the nature of the threats to reveal private and personal information.”