Nick Griffin Blackmailed Over Unpaid Debt
The daughter of BNP leader Nick Griffin was nearly “run off the road” in north Cumbria by men pursuing her father for repayment of a £44,000 debt, a jury heard.
Mr Griffin appeared in the witness box at Carlisle Crown Court yesterday to give evidence in the case of a printing firm boss who is accused of blackmailing him.
Prosecutor Tim Evans described a series of threatening phone calls and text messages which were sent to Mr Griffin, his elderly parents and his daughter Jennifer Matthys, who works in Wigton.
The court heard how Mrs Matthys was about to go home on a day in March last year when she noticed a car parked opposite her workplace. There were at least three men inside and the lights were turned off, said Mr Evans.
As her husband Angus drove off, the couple saw the car following them through Wigton and it continued to follow them into Carlisle.
When they pulled onto a petrol forecourt, the car followed them and it was at this point that the driver – said by the prosecution to be 33-year-old printing firm boss David Sloan – drove at their vehicle. Earlier, Mr Evans told the court that the defendant had travelled from his home in Northern Ireland to Cumbria with three burly men, who looked like “big bruisers”.
“Just the sort of people who would man the doors in Botchergate on a Saturday night,” said Mr Evans.
Scared by what happened, Mrs Matthys and her husband called the police but the following day she received a text message from a sender identified as “Belfast Debt”.
The message said: “You were lucky last night but your luck may not hold.”
Another text said: “U can run but u can’t hide. Broken bones will be sore.”
Yet another message, sent three minutes later from the same sender, said: “For the £44 grand that is owed in Belfast, Nick must pay or we will pay every bone in your body.”
Mr Evans went on to outline other threatening messages which the prosecution say the defendant sent.
One was sent to Nick Griffin, and told him: “Get the money paid to the Belfast company.. failing to do so ur mother in law will be getting a visit.”
A later message to Mr Griffin said: “No point in giving 2 fingers to the Shankhill Road. U would be coming up with a quick fix nick before someone gets hurt.”
In his evidence, Mr Griffin said he understood the latter message to be a reference to an area of west Belfast which is a well known stronghold of terrorists loyalist paramilitary organisations.
“It was a threat and I reported it immediately to the police,” said Mr Griffin.
Asked about the incident in Cumbria on March 1 – his birthday – Mr Griffin said he had a call from his daughter. “She was very distressed that there had been an attempt to run her and her husband off the road by a car that was following them.
“Shortly after the attempt to run them off the road, she received a threat over the phone. It happened near Wigton, where they live.”
Mr Griffin said his parents in Wales, both in their 80s, had a threatening call from a man with a Northern Irish accent, saying there would be trouble with the family if the money owed was not paid.
He had immediately connected the call with the dispute between him and his party and Romac Press, Mr Sloan’s printing firm.
Asked how he felt about the threats, he said: “It’s a concern because it is my family who were on the line here. That’s all I can say.
“I didn’t regard that we owed the money which was being talked about. Mr Sloan knew perfectly well that we could not pay it back in one lump sum.”
He said his mother-in-law lived alone and was vulnerable and bringing her into it had been “grossly unfair”.
Sloan, of Newtownards, County Down, Ireland, denies seven charges of blackmail by making unwarranted demands for money with menaces. Romac Press had printed election literature for the BNP but the relationship with the party and Mr Griffin had soured, said Mr Evans. The trial continues.