Bomb blackmailer jailed: police caught him through an unusual clue

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Clifford FlemingClifford Fleming, a 65-year-old a former soldier from Clitheroe, has been jailed for three years for a bomb blackmail plot. He posted a note into a bank's letterbox overnight, telling them that unless £150,000 was left in an alley nearby, he would plant a bomb in a busy shopping centre.

Worried staff called the police, and eventually Fleming was caught by a crossword puzzle.

The Daily Mail reported that Fleming's note had read: "This is a coded message. A bomb has been timed to explode at 1.30pm in a very busy place in Lancashire unless you follow this request to the letter. Multiple deaths and injuries will occur unless you follow these demands. Our people will be listening to the police and watching you. Don't try to be a hero or carnage will ensue."

They called police, who went to the alleyway that Fleming had named for the drop off. They saw him walk there a minute before the deadline, pick up a carrier bag, and leave.

The Lancashire Evening Post said Fleming initially denied making the threat. However, his story unravelled when police saw a crossword puzzle on his coffee table. They matched the handwriting on the paper to the one on the note, and he admitted to making the threat in order to pay off gambling debts.

The Telegraph reported the judge as saying this may have seemed like a desperate plan by a 65-year-old under immense pressure. However, she added that the letter was designed to make bank staff fear a credible threat, and that 40 staff and officers were deployed over a seven hour operation - wasting significant resources. She jailed him for three years.

Unusual clues

A crossword may seem like an unusual way to be caught. But there have been some bizarre things that have caught criminals out recently. In May last year we reported the tale of the Birmingham burglar who snacked on Jaffa Cakes at the scene of the crime and was caught by a fingerprint on the packaging.

That same month two men in Fresno, California, were caught when one of them accidentally dialled 911 on the phone in his pocket. The operator heard them planning a burglary, and a window smashing. He stayed on the line to hear the men being chased by police and caught.

Then in June there was the burglar in New Zealand who called police himself after bumping into a hanged body in the dark while he was trying to rob a home in the North Island city of Hamilton. He apparently woke the neighbours with his screaming.

A year earlier there was the burglar who broke into a restaurant in Cambridge, and decided to take a swig from a bottle of Champagne. The police used the DNA from the bottle to track him down.

And in the same month, a woman from Westlake in Ohio broke into a property, did some cleaning, and left a bill for $75 on a napkin with her name and address. The householder assumed his parents had arranged a cleaner, but after calling his parents discovered that the woman hadn't been hired - she had chosen the house at random.