'Dangerous' South Shields offender blackmailed businessman and attacked Sunderland homeless man in Blandford Street
A violent brute warned a businessman he would smash a glass in his face and ordered him to sack two members of his staff in a shocking £5,000 blackmail plot.
During a terrifying 11-minute conversation Craig Merrigan warned the victim he had four days to fire two named people from his business or he would face repercussions.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the business owner rejected Merrigan's demands outright and alerted the police.
Prosecutor Nicholas Lane told the court how the conversation unfolded between the two men, and of the demands made.
"Over the course of a conversation lasting about 11 minutes Merrigan repeatedly threatened him and demanded £5,000 from him.
"Merrigan accused the complainant of having been arrested for sexually assaulting a member of staff, something we know to be untrue.
"He repeated it several times, in a manner which the complainant said was aggressive.
"Merrigan went on to say he should sack the two members of staff.
"He said he would give him four days to sack them and if not he would have to give him £5,000.
"He threatened to smash a pint glass into his face.
"He said he would come looking for him if he did not pay."
The court heard Merrigan was questioned and bailed for the blackmail offence, which he denied.
While on bail, he and Danielle McKenzie left a homeless man with a bleed on the brain and a broken nose after a violent confrontation in Sunderland city centre.
Mr Lane said the violence happened on Blanford Street in the city, where the victim was with a friend.
Merrigan and McKenzie both hit and punched the man repeatedly and he may have become unconscious during the attack.
He spent four days in hospital afterwards.
The pair said the violence erupted because there had been an earlier run-in with the victim and his friend on the Metro and some of their possessions had gone missing.
Merrigan, 36, of Devonshire Street, South Shields, who has 61 offences on his record, including 14 for violence, was convicted of blackmail after a trial and admitted assault.
McKenzie, 30, of Premier Road, Plains Farm, Sunderland, admitted assault.
Judge Sarah Mallett sentenced Merrigan to a total of six years behind bars for the offences.The judge said the victim of the blackmail was "robust" and that Merrigan is a "dangerous" offender.
McKenzie, who will be assessed for her suitability for an alcohol treatment programme, will be sentenced in two weeks and is in custody in the meantime.
Jennifer Coxon, defending Merrigan, said the offences were committed after he had consumed alcohol and he has difficulty with "emotional regulation".
Miss Coxon said Merrigan, who has been a victim of violence in the past, is a trusted prisoner in custody and has enrolled on a barbering course.
The court heard McKenzie has spent some time in custody, has an issue with alcohol and is "embarrassed" by her behaviour that day.
Laura Miller, defending, said: "She is very sorry for her actions."