A GANG of burglars blackmailed an escort after they broke into her luxury flat in Leeds city centre and found photographs and DVDs linking her to the sex trade.
A court heard the 60-year-old victim was sent a letter in which the men demanded £50,000 or they would expose her “filthy secret” to her children.
“It was a repugnant offence. It was an ugly and vicious crime that has had a real impact on this complainant.”Recorder Richard Woollfall
Leeds Crown Court was told the three men targeted the city centre flat which the woman used to entertain clients, believing there was a large sum of money inside the property.
The three men hired tools to break into the apartment before two of them dressed up as builders and the other as a businessman so as not arouse suspicion among other residents.
The victim was away on holiday with her partner when the men gained entry and ransacked the property.
Stephanie Hancock, prosecuting, said the search of the property was extremely thorough. They even dismantled the washing machine but did not find any cash.
They instead found a large amount of personal material which exposed her work as an escort.
The men took photographs, diaries, DVDs, memory sticks and were also able to obtain website log-in credentials, her personal e-mail and the mobile phone number she used for escorting.
Miss Hancock said: “It seems that after this burglary the defendants hatched a plan to try to blackmail the complainant.”
They sent a letter to the victim’s home threatening to tell her friends, family and her children about her “filthy secret”.
The prosecutor said: “It was made clear with the letter that they would carry out the threat and expose the complainant unless she paid them £50,000 in cash in three days.”
The letters was compiled using materials taken from the flat and was delivered by hand to victim’s family home.
The victim and her partner found the latter when they returned from holiday.
Miss Hancock added: “The complainant was extremely distressed and her partner was concerned as she did not want her children to find out about the escorting.”
The victim immediately identified one of the men as a culprit. She had seen him sat in a vehicle outside the flat dressed as a builder on two previous occasions months before the burglary.
On the second occasion the ‘workmen’ had placed a ladder outside the flat but left in a hurry when they realised she was still at home.
The victim was sent a second letter on October 2 continuing the demands for money and containing a picture of her in her underwear.
She contacted police after receiving the letter but destroyed it before officers could examine it. Miss Hancock described how she poured bleach on it to destroy it as she was afraid her daughter read it.
Joseph Layfield, 26, of Tinshill Lane, Ireland Wood, Leeds, was arrested after he was linked to text messages he sent describing the blackmail plot.
He pleaded guilty to burglary and blackmail and was jailed for three years, ten months.
The court heard the two other men had received the same sentence at a previous hearing.
Jailing Layfield, Recorder Richard Woollfall said: “It was a repugnant offence. It was an ugly and vicious crime that has had a real impact on this complainant.”