Shock as Holt poison pen writer released with verbal police warning and no charge

PUBLISHED: 15:58 03 July 2014 | UPDATED: 15:58 03 July 2014

Holt town centre. Picture: Matthew Usher.

Holt town centre. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

The mayor of Holt is demanding the writer of poison pen letters to elderly residents be “named and shamed” after a man received a police warning for the offence.

Bryan Payne was speaking as it was revealed that police had given a local elderly man, who admitted writing the letters, a verbal warning.

He was questioned after the north Norfolk market town was rocked by the news that someone from the community had sent more than 15 anonymous and threatening handwritten letters, threatening their elderly recipients over the past year.

An EDP appeal, and the offer of a £1,000 reward, resulted in about 50 people coming forward to police with information about the
malicious mail.

Some of the letters, sent over the course of a year, had told the victims to leave their homes, with a sample released by police reading: “The longer you leave it the sooner you will have to vacate the property.”

The EDP appeal saw posters posted around the town calling for help and an offer of a reward for information leading to an arrest and subsequent conviction.

Mr Payne said: “This has upset an awful lot of people. I think the writer should be named and shamed. He has got away with it.”

Orest Musial, restaurant manager at Byfords, believed to be the town’s oldest building which houses a cafe, restaurant and store in Shirehall Plain, said he did not know who the letter writer was, but thought he should be named and shamed.

He said: “I don’t think a verbal warning is good enough. I think he should be named and shamed. It’s a lovely community here in Holt, everyone knows each other. It’s caused problems in Holt. There’s definitely been some negative atmosphere around the letters. I think they should be named and shamed.”

The town, which is popular with tourists because of its Georgian charm, was rocked after news of the malicious letters came to light early last month.

Butcher Paul Reed, from P & S Butchers, said: “The warning is a bit light considering how many people the letters affected. I am not overly happy with the outcome. I would like to see more of a punishment.”

His grandparents-in-law, who are in their 70s, received about six letters over the past two years.

One of his customers had been receiving the letters since 2004.

Denise Benbow, owner of Benbow’s Greengrocer, said: “He deserves a bit more than that. I would have thought the police would have taken more action considering what he has done.

“Everybody was shocked about the letters because they didn’t know about them. They were shocked it happened in Holt because everybody tends to get on well with each other.”

Peta Benson, chairman of the Holt Caring Society, said the letters were horrendous and the writer had caused a lot of distress.

About 50 people came forward with information after the police launched an appeal.

In some cases the writer had cut out North Norfolk District Council letter heads, pasting them on sheets of paper and writing underneath.

A Holt businessman said his relative had received several threatening letters which told them to leave their property.

In a statement, Norfolk police said: “Following consultation with victims, and taking all factors into account, the matter was dealt with by way of a verbal warning.’’

Sgt Damon Money said: “He [the writer] was remorseful for his actions and, having spoken to him at length, officers were satisfied that, although inappropriate and misguided, the letters were not intended to cause distress. He has made assurances that no further letters will be sent and the victims we have spoken to are content with this outcome.”

A district council spokesman said the council would not comment as it was a matter for the police.

Providing an insight into the motive of the anonymous writer, Dr Simon Hampton, from the UEA School of Psychology, said there were several options for understanding the crime.

He said the sender might have meant the letters as a practical joke, or not thought it was a criminal offence.

Speaking to the EDP last month Dr Hampton, who lectures at the university, said the victims would have found the letters unsettling.

He said: “Maybe the people receiving them are wondering who they have upset that would want revenge.

“To think they don’t know who it was adds to the troubled feeling.”

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