A man who admitted a blackmail attempt after going ‘catfishing’ online has been sentenced.
On March 7, 2021, Northamptonshire Police was contacted by a man reporting that he was being blackmailed after matching with a Tinder profile he believed to belong to a woman named Bella.
Once their conversation moved to Snapchat, he sent £50 and then £200 via a bank transfer in order for her to come to his home, before the ‘woman’ asked him to send intimate images, which he did.
When she then asked for more cash and the victim refused, he was told the person he had been chatting with was a 15-year-old girl, threatened with being reported to police and having his images posted online, and sent a threatening message with a gun emoji.
In reality, the victim had actually been corresponding with Owen Cowdell, now aged 20.
Officers investigating the report were able to identify Cowdell and he was charged with blackmail – making an unwarranted demand of money with menaces.
After admitting the offence at a hearing in June, he returned to Northampton Crown Court on August 18 for sentence.
Cowdell, of Woodside Way, Kings Heath, Northampton, was given a nine-month custodial sentence, suspended for 18 months. He must also undertake a rehabilitation activity requirement for a maximum of 35 days, and carry out 200 hours of unpaid work before August next year.
He was also ordered to pay £250 compensation to the victim within three months, and to pay a victim surcharge of £156.
Investigating officer PC Cole, of Wellingborough Response, said: “The victim in this case did absolutely the right thing in reporting Cowdell’s demands and threats to us.
“While no-one actually went to his home, and the images he’d sent weren’t published online, the fear he felt at those threats was no doubt very real.
“I’m glad the evidence we secured meant that Cowdell admitted his guilt and I hope he uses the opportunities afforded by his sentence conditions to put his energies into legal ways to get ahead in life. If he re-offends during the period of his suspended sentence, he will be facing prison.
“I also hope this case shows that Northamptonshire Police takes blackmail and extortion offences seriously and is there to help anyone who finds themselves in a compromised position like this.
“While our advice is to avoid sharing intimate images with anyone you’ve met online, or don’t know well, as long as you’re both 18 or over it isn’t a crime to do this. If you have shared intimate images and find yourself being blackmailed as a result, please report it immediately to the police and try not to panic – you are a victim and it is not your fault.”