A PENSIONER has has received a two year suspended prison sentence for attempting to blackmail a branch of HSBC in South Lakeland.

Peter Frederick Gould, 71, of Robby Lea Drive, Natland, appeared in front of Judge Forrester today following a police investigation into blackmail.

The court heard that a police investigation was launched on June 14 2012 after a HSBC branch in Milnthorpe contacted officers to say they had received an anonymous ransom letter demanding £150,000 in cash. The letter stated that if the bank failed to pay up, female staff at the bank and members of their families would be raped.

A significant police investigation was immediately launched to identify the offender and ensure the bank staff and their families who were potentially at risk were safe, secure and reassured.

The investigation continued for several days and the author of the letter was identified as Gould who was arrested in Milnthorpe on July 18.

After his arrest police recovered a further copy of the ransom letter and other evidence on Gould’s computer which he had buried in an attempt to hide evidence.

Detective Superintendent Paul Duhig said: “Gould committed a very serious offence which is highly unusual in Cumbria. We rarely encounter offences of blackmail and this case was especially unique due to the offender’s age and the sophistication of his plot.”