Brentwood Gazette report: Three "bored" youngsters have admitted threatening to "bomb" the Subway store in Billericay High Street and kill the owner's family.
Joseph Reno was bombarded with 30 phone calls and called a "Paki," before the callers started demanding hundreds of pounds.
Stephanie Copperwheat, 20, and Jordan Stubbings, 19, of Tate Close in Basildon and Sean Gaynor, 19, of Westfield in Basildon, admitted when arrested that they "thought it would be funny". Last Thursday (June 26) at Basildon Magistrates' Court, they each pleaded guilty to one count of racially aggravated harassment with fear of violence, committed between February 9 and April 7.
Prosecutor Ian Allen read out a statement given by Mr Reno to the police, where he said the first call was received on February 9, during which Copperwheat said she wanted to have sex with him. He said he asked her what she was talking about and she started being abusive, calling him a "Paki".
"Give me money and I'll leave you alone"
Mr Reno said he could hear a male voice in the background swearing, adding that he had no idea why he was being targeted. A week later he received a further three or four calls between 10.30pm and 11pm. He said in the statement:
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Mr Reno to the Gazette"]I recognised the male and the female voices to be the same. During this call they stated they wanted £1,000 from me. They said they would kill all my family if I didn't give them the money.[/quote]
The following day when he was called again at 2.42pm he recorded some of the call. He told police: "The female said 'you're stealing our jobs, I want money, give me f***ing money and I'll leave you alone'." Mr Reno said Copperwheat asked him to meet her at Cosmos kebab shop in Basildon with £500 and unless he did so, she would bomb his store and kill his family.
He received another call at 2.45pm that day where he was told to meet the callers at Laindon bus stop with £100. Mr Reno said he was told he would not be alive if he did not hand over the money. They mentioned Mr Reno's wife and son and said they knew where he lived.
"All this made me believe these people are known to me," said Mr Reno in the statement. "I am worried about my family, my home and my business."
Police tracked down Gaynor, who was a previous employee at the Subway store, and he confirmed he made the calls along with Copperwheat and Stubbings. The trio were arrested.
Mr Allen continued: "[During interview] they said they were bored and they thought it would be funny to make these calls. They said they had not considered how the victim would feel."
The court heard Gaynor claimed he suffered from short-term memory loss and could not remember what had been said. Copperwheat admitted she was the female voice, had called the victim a "Paki" had demanded money and threatened to blow up the shop, before adding she had no intention of meeting Mr Reno or carrying out the threats, and had not thought of the consequences.
Stubbings admitted speaking to the victim and swearing at him. He said he could not remember Gaynor saying much but admitted he was egging him on. He claimed he too had short-term memory loss and was very sorry.
Defence counsel said the only matter the defendants contested was the amount of cash requested – they claimed it was just £100.
He told the court:
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by Stubbings in court"]They had been making other voicemail calls to their friends and it accelerated to a level that they never appreciated. They were deeply apologetic and had no idea of the nature and seriousness of what they were doing.[/quote]
Gaynor, Copperwheat and Stubbings were given unconditional bail and will be sentenced on July 17 at the same court.
Speaking to the Gazette on Friday (June 27), Joseph Reno, who has owned his shop for eight years, said
[quote width="auto" align="none" border="#0066cc" color="#0066cc" title="Quoted by"]I have never heard of this happening to anyone, I went through a very tough time. I couldn't sleep. It was a horrible thing and I was very scared – I didn't know who they were.[/quote]
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