Man pleads guilty to blackmail

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A man has pleaded guilty to blackmailing the boss of a brewery after a group of travellers set up camp on its premises.

Thomas Ward, 43, admitted demanding £20,000 from Thwaites Brewery chief executive officer Richard Bailey with menaces in May this year.

Ahead of a scheduled trial at Preston Crown Court on Monday, Ward, of Aspull Common, Leigh, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle Thwaites Brewery in Blackburn, Lancashire, and conspiracy to commit criminal damage.

Two other defendants, John Ward, 33, also of Aspull Common, and a 17-year-old male who cannot be named for legal reasons, also admitted the conspiracy offences.

A fourth defendant, Patrick Ward, 32, of Aspull Common, accused of the same conspiracy offences, did not attend Monday's hearing. His trial will proceed in his absence on Tuesday morning.

More than £200,000 worth of damage is estimated to have been caused to the brewery when a group of around 100 members of the travelling community set up camp over the bank holiday weekend.

Thomas Ward and John Ward will be sentenced on Thursday