Leighton Buzzard Man Cleared Of Blackmailing Family Friend Who Killed Himself
5:48pm 3rd September 2014
A Leighton Buzzard man has been cleared of blackmailing a family friend who killed himself after being told he was going to be exposed as a paedophile.
Robert Barton, who lives on Wyngates, allegedly told 62-year-old Peter Hallams he'd reveal he was a paeodophile if he didn't give him £500.
After being sent a series of threatening text messages, Mr Hallams gassed himself on his house boat in Leighton Buzzard.
Prosecutor Neil King told Luton crown court said another text message sent on 26 May last year read: "When you have got money text me and I will give you an account to put it in. £500 or prison. Make your choice."
A day later another text read: "I am coming to the Black Lion to tell everyone." On that occasion he asked for £30.
On 29 May Mr Hallams complained to the police about Mr Barton. An officer visited him at his barge, which was moored near Jewson's, on the Grand Union Canal. A report was logged but Mr Hallams said he did not want any action taken.
Then on 3 June Mr Hallams took his own life, gassing himself using the petrol generator on his barge. He sent a friend Craig Wharton a message saying: "Thanks for everything mate. I don't want to do this. I have had enough. Kill that f****t... for me i.e. Robert." He sent Barton a message that read: "You have done it now mate. Hope you are happy now. This will haunt you."
Mr Wharton discovered his body at ten to eight that morning.
Opening the case, Mr King said Peter Hallams had known the Barton family for many years and when he was younger Robert Barton went to his boat a number of times.
Mr Barton, of Wyngates, Leighton Buzzard, denies blackmail and was cleared by a jury of 9 women and 3 men after less than an hour.
He told the jury he wanted to get money to prove to the police Mr Hallams was a paedophile.
Defence barrister Tim Clark told the jury that Barton "was not an angel."
He said he had taken drugs, had dyslexia and autism and had criminal convictions. But he said Peter Hallams was a paedophile. In a call to Barton's brother he Mr Hallams came close to confessing that the abuse did occur. When Mr Hallam's phone was examined it showed he had an interest in young men having used search terms such as "Boy crush", "Boy Feast" and "Only Dudes."
Mr Clark went on: "This prosecution was brought to defend the rights of paedophiles against their victims. My client believed he was getting evidence. It was not about getting money."
After the verdict, Judge Michael Kay QC told Barton he was free to go and granted him a costs order of £55 to cover his travel expenses to court.
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