A train fanatic sent letters threatening to bomb a railway and harm passengers – to get a fellow enthusiast in trouble.
Nicholas Cawthorne, of Selby Road, Colton, Leeds, posted a string of poison pen letters to staff at historic North Yorkshire Moors Railway, signed ‘David Lake’.
Leeds Magistrates’ Court heard 50-year-old Cawthorne, who had a “lifelong love” of railways, carried out his bizarre harassment campaign to damage the reputation of Mr Lake, who volunteered for the company.
Prosecutor Marie Austin-Walsh said some of the letters – sent in February and March of this year – were directed against management.
“Some of them are threatening and abusive, some of them make threats to harm passengers and one refers to a bomb being placed on the railway,” she said.
“None of them were taken seriously by the railway or the police to the degree of any immediate action being taken.
“The police seemed to have formed the opinion that, in their words, the letters were written by some sort of crank.”
Mr Lake was arrested as a result of the letters, but denied he had written them and was released on bail.
He was then re-arrested after Cawthorne sent further letters in his name.
But Cawthorne was unmasked as the real letter-writer after he sent more correspondence to the company in his own name complaining about Mr Lake.
Mrs Austin-Walsh said: “In the letters he describes concerns about Mr Lake, saying he shouldn’t be working there and they should get rid of him. He said Mr Lake was insulting people there.
“These were all false allegations.”
Police arrested Cawthorne after matching his fingerprints and DNA to the earlier threatening letters. A handwriting expert said the letters must have been written by the same person.
Ghazanfar Iqbal, mitigating, said his client, who had already pleaded guilty to harassment, had never been in trouble before and was deeply embarrassed.
Cawthorne, who lives with his parents, had suffered a breakdown at the time, he said.
“He understands the impact this has had on Mr Lake and wants to apologise to him,” Mr Iqbal said.
He added: “This is a lifelong love of his and something he realises he won’t be able to return to.”
Cawthorne was given an indefinite restraining order banning him from contacting Mr Lake or North Yorkshire Moors Railway staff, or travelling on the railway.
He was also given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months, 100 hours of unpaid work and was ordered to pay Mr Lake £500 compensation as well as court costs of £85.