Thug guilty of violence threat over £23,000 bill

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Driver caught no-handed

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A VIOLENT thug who threatened to chop a garage owner’s hands and feet off over a £23,000 bill is facing jail.

Tony Larbey tried to blackmail the father-of-two in a bid to get him to give cash to Michael Howarth, a British Superbike rider.

The mechanic, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told a jury at Portsmouth Crown Court he was left petrified.

He said: ‘He said he was going to cut my feet off.

‘I was worried about my family. I was worried about myself. I was worried about the situation I had been put into through no fault of my own.’

Mr Howarth, who is not facing any charges, had paid the garage owner £23,000 for work on his motorbike.

But the rider, who took part in the British Superbike Championship in 2009 and 2010, felt he had been ripped off and was trying to get his money back, the court was told.

Larbey threatened the man to make him pay up.

The 41-year-old went to his garage, which cannot be identified but is in the Portsmouth area, on July 24, last year.

‘He told me that he was here to sort out the money that was owed to Michael Howarth,’ the victim said.

Larbey told him: ‘Go to the police and I will chop your hands off.’

After following the garage owner home Larbey, who has a long list of convictions for violent offences, then turned up at his front door a few weeks later, on September 14.

He told the victim: ‘You’ve got until Saturday to pay the money or we’re going to come and get you.

He added: ‘Just sort it out or I will see you on Saturday.’

Larbey, who works as a Southern Water subcontractor, admitted going to see the man at his home and work.

But said he was doing it as a favour for someone he met at the Brands Hatch race track.

Larbey denied threatening the garage owner.

But the jury found him guilty of two counts of blackmail after three hours of deliberations.

The mechanic’s father, who was at the garage when Larbey turned up, heard him say: ‘You wouldn’t want me to come back with the boys because I will chop your arms and legs off.’

He said: ‘I took the threats to be very credible.

‘The incident was indelible.

‘It’s not everyday you get threats like that made against you.’

Superbike rider Howarth, 33, from Manchester, told the court he had not asked anyone to threaten the mechanic.

He said: ‘I felt aggrieved but there’s no talking to the man.

‘So I just kind of gave up on it really.’

Larbey, formerly of Southsea but now living in Boleyn Drive, Bognor Regis, was remanded in custody to be sentenced next month.

Judge Roger Hetherington said there was no doubt he would be going to prison.

After the hearing Detective Constable Mel Sinclair, who led the investigation, praised the garage owner for his bravery in coming to court.

She said: ‘We are glad that justice has been done.

‘I hope that this sends a message to anyone who thinks it’s a good idea to make threats to gain money and think they can get away with it.

‘Because Mr Larbey turned up at this man’s home address he was really worried about his wife and his children.

‘They have been really brave throughout the investigation.’