A LANDOWNER who hatched a violent blackmail plot after a business deal turned sour has been found guilty.
Bernard Maw was convicted of conspiracy to blackmail after a seven-day trial at Newcastle Crown Court.
The 59-year-old, of Silksworth Hall Drive, Sunderland, snapped the leg of a company boss during a brutal beating after a business agreement fell through in February last year.
The terrified victim told jurors that he was warned he would be shot if he drafted in help from Ernie Bewick, whose firm Bewick Securities protects his companies, and he would be put in a car boot and never brought back if he contacted the police.
During the trial the court was told that Maw was the “mastermind” behind the blackmail plot who drafted in bullying “enforcer” Liam Coatman, 24, of Hatfield Place, Peterlee, to extract money from the victim.
Coatman pleaded guilty to conspiracy to blackmail at an earlier hearing.
Lee Wales, 25, of Hatfield Place, Peterlee, was accused of being an assistant to Maw, but was found not guilty of conspiracy to blackmail.
Judge Paul Sloan, QC, warned Maw that he was now facing jail.
He said: “As you will know, you have been advised by your barrister that the overwhelming likelihood is that you will be facing a custodial sentence.”
It was heard that the argument arose after the businessmen fell out over a plot of land Maw had for rent.
The victim had agreed to lease it but then backed out after a disagreement over the terms and conditions. This led to a bitter dispute, with both men claiming the other owed him money.
The victim told jurors he had gone to Maw’s property in 2009 in a bid to sort out the row.
But he said: “He punched me in the face. I fell to the ground and hit my head.
“He continuously punched me. He ripped the top of my ear.
“I was unconscious. I had black eyes and my leg was snapped in half.”
The company boss told jurors he needed surgery to have pins fitted to his injured leg and spent six months on crutches.
He said Maw sent someone to his door making demands for money while he was recovering from the ordeal but the person was not threatening.
It was in February this year the blackmail plot got under way and he was threatened with violence.
The businessman told jurors he was at one of his company sites when enforcer Coatman turned up demanding £23,000.
He said: “He was a total, 100 per cent bully.
“He looked up and saw I have a security company, 24-hour security called Bewick Securities.
“He said ‘don’t be getting them because me and a 20-squad will come back and shoot the lot of them, but we would shoot you first’.
“He said ‘listen to me. I’ve just come out after doing an eight stretch. The bloke that put me there got put in a boot and he never came back, you know what I’m saying’.
“I was absolutely terrified.
“His threat was to shoot me if I brought in Bewick Securities or put me in the boot if I phoned the police.”
The court heard the victim did contact the police, who recorded a series of threatening phone calls made after the visit, and Maw and Wales were arrested.
Maw was released on conditional bail and will appear again at Newcastle Crown Court in the week commencing September 19, when he will be sentenced.