A man jailed for taking his ex-lover's dog in an attempt to win back a £2m silver chalice once owned by Nazi henchman Hermann Goering was freed yesterday.

Derek Smith's "manifestly excessive" nine-month sentence was cut at London's Court of Appeal after it being imposed at Newcastle Crown Court on March 15 for an offence of blackmail.

The 51-year-old, of Tuscan Road, Sunderland, admitted holding to ransom the dog of former partner, Susan Morton, in a bid to make her return the foot-high artefact looted from Germany at the end of the Second World War.

Inscribed with the words, "In memory of the great time 7.3.36 Hermann Goering", it is thought to have marked the invasion of the Rhineland in 1936.

Goering, who headed the Luftwaffe, was Adolf Hitler's number two, but fell out of favour and committed suicide at the end of the war.

Describing Smith's offence as "mean", Mr Justice Wright said although a custodial sentence was justified, one of six weeks would be more appropriate.

The sentence cut means Smith, who was released on bail when he won permission to appeal on April 19, will not have to return to jail.

The judge told the court how the roots of the bizarre case lay in a disputed £40,000 loan Ms Morton claimed to have made Smith in 1995 for a business venture that eventually failed.

Ms Morton claimed Smith gave her the chalice in May 2001 as security for the debt but a month later he said he had taken her beloved dog Benjy saying she would not see her pet again unless the antique was returned.

Ms Morton was in hospital awaiting an operation but rushed home and tild police and they swooped on Smith when he came to make the exchange.