Three Derbyshire brothers have been jailed for their parts in a six-year campaign of blackmail, extortion, fear and violence against a number of local business owners.
Between January 2010 and January 2016, motivated by their self-declared interest in a waste removal company, David, John and Luke Lowther and their associates used verbal threats and physical violence to blackmail six people, and made a total of £31,000 out of them in the process.
The waste removal company director Ryan Colson was in on the plot against one of the victims and, assisted by Paul Knight, the gang used bribery and intimidation to get their way. The brothers stole a vehicle and tools, and damaged property for bargaining power, forcing their victims to pay them ‘protection’ money to guard against further thefts.
When the Lowthers’ victims found the courage to report the crimes to police John and Luke were arrested. Knowing that he was wanted by the police, David — with assistance from Richard Cooper, Stephen Vincent and Russell Greenhalgh — failed to return from his family holiday in Gran Canaria, evading arrest. He eventually returned to the UK two months later and was detained, having travelled through Spain, France, the Netherlands and Ireland.
But the trio’s offending didn’t stop there. Through phone calls from their prison cells, using a form of slang as code, the brothers worked with their sisters Caroline McDonagh, Louise Lowther and Julie Lowther to plan the intimidation of witnesses and potential witnesses and plotted to pressure and threaten other defendants in order to change their accounts.
Detective Chief Inspector Paul Myers, Senior Investigating Officer, formerly of the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU), said: “The Lowther brothers and their criminal associates acted like vicious bullies. They knew what was at stake for their victims and exploited and manipulated these vulnerabilities for their own gain, causing damage to property as well as threatening and using physical violence.
“And the Lowthers continued to try to exert their hold in a bid to derail proceedings, even when the game was effectively up, but we weren’t going to let that happen. Our case left them nowhere to go, with all but one pleading guilty to their charges.
“I hope their victims find some comfort knowing their ordeal is over and the weight of fear and anxiety has been lifted.
“It’s fair to say the East Midlands community is a safer place now that these men and women are behind lock and key.”
Detective Chief Inspector Fiona McDonald, of Derbyshire police, said: “This is a significant conviction of a criminal gang who have threatened and intimated local people and local businesses for many years.
“I must praise the witnesses and victims who have come forward and supported this investigation. There will be many people who will rest easier with the sentencing of this criminal gang. Derbyshire police will fully investigate those involved in organised crime and will endeavour to bring offenders to justice.”
The following people pleaded guilty at Nottingham Crown Court and on Thursday 6 and Friday 7 April were sentenced:
John Lowther (39) of no fixed address: eight years for three counts of conspiracy to blackmail, doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and conspiracy to conceal/disguise/convert/ transfer/remove criminal property.
David Lowther (35) of no fixed address: nine years for three counts of conspiracy to blackmail, two counts of doing an act tending and intended to pervert the course of public justice, two counts of witness intimidation, conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and conspiracy to conceal/disguise/convert/transfer/remove criminal property.
Luke Lowther (33) of no fixed address: eight years for three counts of conspiracy to blackmail, driving while disqualified, witness intimidation, threatening to destroy or damage property andconspiracy to pervert the course of justice.
Ryan Colson (33) of Westfield Avenue in Heanor, two years suspended sentence (200 hrs community service) for conspiracy to blackmail and conspiracy to conceal/disguise/convert/ transfer/remove criminal property.
Paul Knight (46) of Berle Avenue in Heanor, 15 months suspended sentence (150 hrs community service) for conspiracy to blackmail.
For conspiracy to pervert the course of justice:
Stephen Vincent (36) of Laceyfields Road in Heanor, nine months suspended for two years (150 community service)
Richard Cooper (43) of Ebenezer Street in Langley Mill, nine months suspended for two years (150 community service)
Julie Lowther (42) of Gladys Street in Nottingham: two years
Louise Lowther (40) of Cedar Road in Forest Fields, Nottingham: two years
Caroline McDonagh (44) of Colston Road in Nottingham: two years
Russell Greenhalgh (49) of Minver Crescent in Nottingham, was jailed for nine month imprisonment after being found guilty of the offence after a trial.
Two other women were acquitted of conspiracy to convert criminal property.