A former military policeman who threatened to poison tons of pumpkins with potassium cyanide in the run up to Halloween has been jailed for eight years. Michael Young, 53, told 70-year-old Lincolnshire farmer David Bowman that he had poisoned a large number of his pumpkins with the deadly substance and demanded £50,000.
In fact Young had injected only a small number of pumpkins with water but this did not stop Bowman, the owner of Europe's biggest pumpkin farm, destroying lots of pumpkins and losing £120,000 of stock. Young, of Alfred Street, Boston, admitted one charge of blackmail in September. He also admitted two charges of possession of drugs with intent to supply in 2011.
Young began demanding money and accusing Bowman of getting rich off the backs of cheap Eastern European workers, just a week before the farm was about to harvest two-and-a-half million pumpkins ready to be marketed for Halloween celebrations. He asked for payment in seven days in the form of bitcoins and sent detailed instructions on how to set up a bitcoin account.
Stuart Lody, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court: "The defendant sent photographs of pumpkins being injected with a substance and articles about potassium cyanide obtained from the internet. A letter said that the pumpkin crop had been selectively poisoned and warned Mr Bowman not to attempt to harvest or sell a single pumpkin until the blackmailer's demands were fully met."
Bowman was warned by Young, according to The Telegraph: "You will go down in history as the farmer who introduced potassium cyanide into the UK food chain. You are about to become famous for all the wrong reasons."
During a police interview, Young denied the offence and blamed two other people were who had access to his computer. Lody added that crack cocaine and heroin were found in Young's home. Bowman said the threats by Young were "devastating". He said: "I've had sleepless nights worrying how this callous and malicious crime will impact on my business."
In mitigation, Michael Cranmer-Brown, told the court: "He is extremely sorry. There was, in fact, no actual contamination of any of the crop. Water was the only matter that had been injected."