Down Debt

Son threatened his widowed mother into giving him huge sums of money to pay off his gambling debt

A son who has accumulated a large debt through gambling has repeatedly threatened his recently bereaved mother to pay for the cost of his addiction.

Ben Rowsell made the threats shortly after his father died from July 2020 to August 2020, Merthyr Tydfil Crown Court understood.

Prosecutor Ieuan Bennett told the court how Rowsell threatened to fabricate a story to her mother’s employer that she was missing work, post embarrassing photos of her on social media, run her car on a hill and burn his clothes.

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In response to his threats, his mother agreed to pay him over £11,000 within a month. She also gave him over £25,000 in an attempt to get him to leave the family home, which he agreed to, but remained to live in the house.

The latest threat of damage to her clothes and belongings left her mother so worried that she decided she had to notify the police.

At the time of his arrest at Belle Vue Terrace, Treforest on August 17, 2020, the court heard how unapologetic Rowsell was for his actions.

Mr Bennett told the court: “The defendant was initially facing a criminal act of blackmail to which he pleaded not guilty on December 9, 2020. The case was then set down for trial in April this year.

“But the mother, who is the victim in this case, contacted the police and the CPS to indicate that she had decided not to support the case of the prosecution and not to appear as a witness at the trial.

“She explained that she had managed to improve her relationship with her son and that she did not want him to go to prison.”

As the blackmail charge was therefore dropped, Rowsell, 25, was instead charged with sending malicious texts with the intent to cause stress and anxiety to which he pleaded guilty. The first blackmail count will continue to lie on record, Mr Bennett said.

Mr Bennett continued: ‘The defendant’s gambling habit got worse in the spring of 2020 and it got worse after his father passed away. It appears his mum had managed to save some money and had savings of up to £180,000.

“His mother agreed to give him quite a large sum of money. In March 2020 she gave him £15,000 and in February 2020 she gave him £10,000.

“She asked him to leave the family home and said she would pay him £25,000 to do so. It seems that it didn’t work out and he stayed.

“In July 2020, the accused began uttering threatening phone calls asking him for money.

“He threatened to upload photos to social media which he said would embarrass her. He accused her of lying about her illness and said he would contact her employer. He threatened to roll her car down a hill.

“Following these threats in the summer of 2020, she gave him £11,800. There were two payments of £5,000, one of £1,200 and one of £600.

“She then decided, in light of the threats, that she needed to get in touch with the police. What prompted her to do this was a phone message from the accused of a photo of him holding a lighter on his clothes.

Mitigating Tim Evans said: “The defendant has no prior convictions, he has three strong character references and he wrote a letter of apology to the court prior to the pre-sentence report which details his state of mind at He looks back on this part of his life with absolute disbelief.

“His mother found within herself the courage to still love her son. She always supports him. It’s wonderful to know.

“The accused pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity to the new indictment.

“He’s been working now for a while and he’s doing his best to avoid the adrenaline that he no doubt still feels thinking about the gambling that is part of the terrible addiction.”

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Judge Christopher Vosper QC spoke directly to Rowsell in court, saying: ‘It is frankly hardly believable that a son could have behaved towards his mother as you did at a time when she did not showed only kindness and had recently been widowed and was ill.

“You have a gambling habit or at least had one back then. It was a habit you had before June 2020, but after your father died, your mother thinks you have been gambling a lot more.

“You knew she had savings. You had gambling debts and decided you wanted some of that money.

“I saw the letter in which you express regret and of course you do so when you are sitting in court. But you showed no concern for your mother during the time of the indictment.

Judge Vosper QC told Rowsell he was lucky his mother did not back the blackmail charges against him.

He explained that he did not believe a short prison sentence was necessary and instead gave Rowsell a 12-month, 100-hour community order which included a 15-hour rehab class requirement.

As Rowsell of Wind Street, Porth, faces a surcharge, the judge told him he would not impose a financial penalty so the defendant could repay his debts.

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