A former horseowner has been jailed for threatening to ‘mutilate and kill’ five horses with a machete as part of a blackmail demand.
Kirsty Geoghegan sobbed as she was given a 15 month sentence at a Sussex Crown court on Friday for sending the ‘thoroughly frightening’ messages on social media.
Chichester Crown Court heard the 25-year-old had threatened to cut the throats of the horses at a Shoreham stables in January last year if she was not given £5,000.
Prosecuting, Edward Hand told the court a horseowner had stayed on site in the hope of protecting the animals, but further messages read ‘the clock is ticking’ and ‘the machete has been sharpened’.
He told the court that on her arrest, Geoghegan, whose address cannot be published for legal reasons, had initially claimed she herself was being blackmailed by someone threatening to hurt her cat, but later pleaded guilty.
Judge Christopher Parker QC said the cat story amounted to ‘a fantasy and a tissue of lies’ and noted it was ‘some considerable time’ before Geoghegan could be tracked down through her computer IP address.
He said: “You were motivated as far as I can tell, either by spite, or by greed or by a combination of both and repeated your demands for what was a very substantial amount of money.”
He said Geoghegan had taken advantage of the distress caused by a well publicised incident shortly beforehand in which six horses’ manes and tails had been found sliced off.
In passing sentence, he stressed there was no evidence that Geoghegan had been responsible for any damage or harm to the horses, but said the blackmail offence was ‘serious’.
He said: “You were very well aware of the distress which had been caused to the owner of the stable and to the owners of the horses and in taking advantage of that upset you seriously aggravated the concerns of those owners.
“On the night of 31st January, and through into the day of 1st February, you sent at least four messages on social media privately to the owner of one of the horses, repeatedly threatening to mutilate and indeed, kill, the animals at the yard, unless you were given £5,000.
“These threats were, and were intended to be, thoroughly frightening.”
The court heard Geoghegan had previously had a horse at the stables and left on bad terms in 2015, although she went on to own a horse of her own.
Defending, Paramjit Ahcuwahlia said Geoghegan had shown remorse and accepted full responsibility for her actions, but suffered from depression and did not understand why she did it.
“It has had an absolutely devastating impact on her,” she said.
Judge Christopher Parker QC noted ‘personal inadequacies’ and ‘some mental health fragility’ did not excuse or explain the offence.
Geoghegan was sentenced to 15 months, half of which is to be served in custody, with a 12 month supervision period after her release.
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