UPDATED WITH MUGSHOT: ‘Unsophisticated’ extortionist sent round ‘heavy’ to threaten family

Keith Sheldrick
Keith Sheldrick

An ‘unsophisticated individual’ tried to extort £20,000 from a family by sending a ‘heavy’ round to their house.

Keith Sheldrick wrongly believed that the new family living in his old property – which he had sold under a bankruptcy order – owed him money.

The 46 year old, of Willis Road, Haddenham sent a man – referred to in court as ‘Mark’ – round to the home of James Smith (not his real name) where he lived with his partner and their two young children on March 23 last year.

He demanded between £20,000 to £25,000 from Mr Smith before saying: ‘I will come back and I can get to you, your wife and your kids’ which left the family frightened to leave the house.

Sheldrick – who has a string of previous convictions dating back to the 1980s including drink driving, handling stolen goods and assualting a police officer – then followed up the threat with an intimidating phone call the following morning.

In court he denied sending the man to the Smith’s home but after the case went to trial and Mr Smith gave evidence, a jury found him guilty.

In a victim statement read out to the court, Mr Smith said: “Immediately after the man came to our house, my partner was hysterical.

“We decided to leave the house to stay with family for a week, and we were on edge.

“It wasn’t so much the threat of him coming after me, but that he would harm my partner and children.

“I became a lot more anxious and I often wished that I had never bought the house.

“I had thought about selling up and moving away but I didn’t want him to force me to leave.

“I feel Keith has punished me and my family when we just happened to be the ones to buy his house.”

Judge Montgomery told Sheldrick: “Your thought processes are simplistic and often lead you to the wrong conclusions.

“You are a very unsophisticated individual, this is not a protracted campaign of black mail. It does not appear to be planned with care.

“This man looked like the archetypal heavy and was dispatched when the family was at home.

“It took Mr Smith’s tears last time in this court room to show us that this family were utterly terrified by that offence.”

Judge Montgomery said that while none of Sheldrick’s previous offences were particularly serious, ‘cumulatively’ they showed that he could not ‘stay out of trouble’.

Sheldrick was sentenced to three years for conspiracy to blackmail, but he will only serve half in prison before being released to serve the rest of his sentence on licence in the community.

He will pay a victim surcharge on his release from prison.