DNA from a drinks can led officers to the man responsible for blackmailing two St Neots farmers and others across the county.

Arnold MacAlister jailed for 18 months

DNA from a drinks can led officers to the man responsible for blackmailing two St Neots farmers and others across the county.

Gary Chambers, 47, was jailed for five years for conspiracy to blackmail at Huntingdon Crown Court on Monday and his accomplice Arnold MacAlister, 51, was sentenced to 18 months in prison for theft.

The pair were part of a gang linked to a string of blackmails across Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire between October 2008 and February 2009.

They were seized after one Elton farmer agreed to hand over thousands of pounds.

Three men had offered to tarmac his drive for £50. After it was laid they demanded £6000 and threatened him with violence if he did not pay up.

When the farmer met them in Stamford with the cash police were lying in wait and arrested MacAlister. DNA from a drinks can found in a nearby yellow tipper lorry led them to Chambers.

Detective Constable Martin Brocklebank, who led the investigation, said: “This was a lengthy investigation and covered a number of different offences across Cambridgeshire and Lincolnshire.

“The tactic was always the same, carrying out the work then threatening the victims with violence in order to extort money. Some of the victims handed over large sums of cash in order to stop the threats.

“Often victims in such cases are unwilling to report the crime for fear of repercussions. However I would urge them to call police so we can stop other people becoming victims. The courts take blackmail very seriously as this case shows - offenders face being locked up for a very long time.”

Both men, from Doncaster, South Yorkshire, were charged with conspiracy to blackmail. They denied the offences, but Chambers was found guilty following a trial and MacAlister was convicted of theft.