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Blackmail victim paid £28,000 to woman threatening to post his nude photos online

A woman blackmailed a man she met online into handing over more than £28,000 by threatening to share explicit photos with his family and friends.

Lauren Dowling’s victim parted with £20,000 inheritance money as well as borrowing from family and taking out payday loans and credit cards to try and keep up with her demands.

Speaking at Cardiff Crown Court, Judge Richard Twomlow described her offending as “callous and calculated”.

Heath Edwards, prosecuting, said the pair met on Snapchat in May 2018 and started an online relationship.

The court heard they exchanged explicit images then Dowling ended the relationship by telling him she was seeing someone else.

Mr Edwards said the defendant invented a boyfriend called Liam and sent a message to the victim pretending to be from Liam.

“Liam” demanded £10 and threatened to send the explicit picture of the victim to his family and share it with his friends on social media if he did not send the money.

Mr Edwards said the victim was “extremely frightened” and transferred £10 to the defendant’s bank account.

The prosecutor added: “Rather than bringing the matter to an end it encouraged the defendant to make regular and repeated demands for money.”

Between July 2018 and April 2019 the victim kept sending money in amounts ranging from £10 to £1,250. He parted with a total of £28,138.

Mr Edwards said: “The toll on the complainant eventually became too much for him to bear and he had no money left.”

The court heard he felt particularly isolated as he could not talk to anyone about what was happening.

He took out payday loans and used credit cards in an attempt to keep up with the demands. He borrowed from family and friends, causing friction, and even used £20,000 inheritance.

The court heard he and his new partner could not afford to buy a house and he now has a debt management plan. He had to give up hobbies as he could no longer afford them.

When she was interviewed by the police the defendant claimed she did not see what she was doing as blackmail.

Mr Edwards said Dowling had no previous convictions but was cautioned for theft in 2012 and interfering with a vehicle in 2013.

Dowling, 24, from Gwaun Newydd in Lansbury Park, Caerphilly, admitted blackmail.

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Laurence Jones, defending, pointed out the cautions dated back to when his client was a teenager and reminded the court she made admissions in her police interview.

The court heard she went to a special educational needs school and left school aged 15. He suggested she was “immature” for her age.

Mr Jones said Dowling, who started using drugs aged 13, was addicted to cocaine and ketamine and had built up a drugs debt. He acknowledged the offending was “emotionally cruel” and told the court in her now drug-free state she would never think of doing anything like that.

He added: “She would find it particularly difficult to enter the custodial setting.”

The court heard she was not currently working but is a full-time carer for her partner.

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Judge Twomlow noted she blackmailed the victim out of more than £28,000 during a nine-month period leaving him in “severe and significant” debt.

He described her behaviour as “callous and calculated” and sent her to prison for two years and eight months. She must serve half of that behind bars before she can be released on licence.

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