A mother-of-two from Wrexham who set up a blackmail plot against her ex-husband because she wanted “more of the high life” from when they were married has been jailed for three years.
Sent to prison for the same period were three men who were also found guilty of conspiring to blackmail Christopher Gash.
A jury had heard that ex-husband Mr Gash, a builder, had been put in fear of his life when £100,000 was demanded from him and told details of his home, his workplace, his new wife’s car and where the children went to school were known.
He had been warned that unless he paid up his home and place of work could be burned down.
Louise Edwards, a former building society worker and piano tutor from Bronwylfa Road, Rhostyllen, was told by Judge Huw Rees: “It was your idea. You were the instigator. You believed this money was due to you as part of your divorce settlement.”
He added at Caernarfon Crown Court: “You had tasted the good life when married to Mr Gash and wanted more of the same.”
The jury heard how two men – Neil Houghton and Clay McGowan – had turned up at Mr Gash’s workplace in November 2015 and threatened him, followed by a further threat from a Liverpool phone box.
Police had arranged for Mr Gash to live elsewhere for six days for his safety.
In a statement read by barrister Matthew Dunford, the victim said his building business had lost tens of thousands of pounds in work and there had been an emotional and frightening effect on his wife and himself.
They were selling their home because they did not feel safe there any more.
Judge Rees imposed an indefinite restraining order banning Edwards, 46, from any contact with him.
Her barrister, Brett Williamson, said during the trial the acrimony between her and her ex-husband had been evident.
“What is undoubtedly the case is that the consequences to her will be particularly devastating,” he said.
Edwards had health issues and during the proceedings had lost four stones in weight.
Edwards had been a hard-working businesswoman, employing 25 people but then reduced to 10.
“They will lose their employment, the business will not survive an immediate custodial sentence,” Mr Williamson said.
The three men jailed were Robert Gladwin, 42, of Bromborough, Wirral; Houghton, 43, of Anfield and McGowan, 42, of Dovecot, both Liverpool.
In evidence Gladwin, an Airbus worker who also ran a security business, claimed the other two men had been carrying out “background checks” on Mr Gash as a favour for Edwards.
Gladwin’s counsel, Trevor Parry Jones, said during the case his health had collapsed and he had to take morphine six times daily. He was unlikely to work again.
Mr Parry Jones described the crime “as almost a comedy of errors”.
Desmond Lennon, for Houghton, said there had been a lack of sophistication and no violence was used. He acknowledged being the source of the threatening phone call from Liverpool.
“His employment n the security industry will have gone,” Mr Lennon said, adding Houghton was respected and hard-working and was regarded as honest and popular.
Frances Hertzog, for McGowan, said it was a significant fall from grace for a man who had worked in the security industry for 10 years but because of the conviction would be unable to do so again.
Judge Rees said Mr Gash had been threatened that “he and his family would all start disappearing”.
Mr Gash and his family still lived with a sense of nervousness, said the judge. He had feared for his life and was still scared when giving evidence.
The judge told the quartet in the dock : “Although you played different roles the four of you were in this together.
“Each played an effective part. I see no basis to differentiate between you.”
After the case Detective Constable Rebecca Roberts, of North Wales Police, said: “Blackmail is a very serious offence.
“This was a traumatic experience for the victim and his family. He was threatened with violence and had threats made against his family and business.
“North Wales Police will pursue such offenders and bring them before the courts.
These individuals now have to face the consequences of their criminal behaviour.”