Formerly obese man facing jail for attempted blackmail

A MORBIDLY-OBESE man who was so fat he dodged a four-year prison sentence for a baseball attack is now facing jail again for trying to blackmail a car wash operator.

Peter Owens, 42, from Hartlepool, threatened stab the man and set fire to his business in Stockton after a dispute over alleged damage to his S-type Jaguar.

The father-of-seven demanded money from the victim, claiming wheels on his "beautiful" car had been scratched, Teesside Crown Court heard during a three-day trial.

Giving evidence in the case, Owens admitted shouting and swearing on visits to the business but said he threatened the man not with violence but "with a solicitor".

He told the jury of nine women and three men that he went to the car wash a number of times and was angry that nothing was being done to address his complaint.

He said at the time of the incident in April last year he weighed about 42 stone. He had lost weight, but was still more than 20 stone, he explained to the court.

Owens, of Sydenham Road, Hartlepool, denied three charges of blackmail and was found guilty of two. The jury acquitted him of threatening to have his victim "kneecapped".

The judge, Recorder David Dobbin, adjourned sentencing until the new year so background reports can be prepared and a medical update can be given by a doctor.

Nigel Soppitt, defending, said Owens has "a catalogue of ailments" and told the judge: "He understands it is a serious offence and Your Honour will be considering custody."

Owens was shown leniency by a different judge at the same court three years ago after he heard how he had a condition which meant he was at risk of dying in his sleep.

His barrister said he was closely monitored by his family at home and was "full of fear" of a custodial sentence because prison staff would have trouble managing him.

Judge Peter Armstrong told Owens that a premeditated attack with a weapon would usually attract a jail sentence of between two and four years.

He was locked up for 15 months after the judge told him: "I will reduce the sentence considerably . . . I will go outside the guidelines because of the problems you have."

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