Gambler threatened to kill champion racehorse after forgetting to place bet

Middleman faced £55,000 bill if punters' tip came in – so he took desperate action

For self-confessed gambling addict Andrew Rodgerson it must have seemed like the perfect way to make money from his vice. He would be supplied with sure-fire tips from horse-racing insiders who were too well known to place their own bets. All Rodgerson had to do was place the bets when he was told to and the cash would roll in, earning a tidy sum for his clients as well as a wedge for himself.

And roll in they did – until he made the ultimate error. Busy with his day job as a travel agent, the 26-year-old forgot to place a bet. If the horse won, he would owe his customers £55,000 – a scenario so unthinkable that Rodgerson decided he could not risk it happening.

His solution: to send threats to the owner of one of the racing world's most celebrated thoroughbreds, warning him that if his horse ran in the race it would be killed. Yesterday Rodgerson, from Balderstone, near Rochdale, paid the price for his mistake when he was convicted at Bolton Crown Court.

The horse in question was Conduit, a multimillion-pound-winning flat-racer who is trained by Sir Michael Stoute – the man who trained the legendary stallion Shergar – and has been ridden by the former champion jockey Frankie Dettori. The race was last July's King George VI and Queen Elizabeth Stakes at Ascot.

It was the final bet in an accumulator and Conduit was favourite to win. If that happened, Rodgerson's clients would be expecting a £55,000 payout. If the horse did not run, his liabilities would be £9,000. So he planned to have the horse withdrawn from the race.

Ten days before Conduit's race Rodgerson sent an anonymous text message to Peter Reynolds, the general manager of the Ballymacoll Stud Farm in Ireland, which owns the horse. It read: "Dear Peter, we would just like to warn you should Conduit run in the King George then the horse will be killed." Rodgerson followed this up with an email claiming that he had overheard men in a bar in Manchester discussing a plot to kill the Newmarket-based horse if it ran.

Mr Reynolds contacted the police and five days later received an email from Rodgerson that said: "Dear Peter, I don't believe you are taking the threat of death to Conduit very seriously. We want the horse removed from the King George this weekend. If you co-operate the horse will live. There are people living in and around Newmarket who are ready and willing. There will also be people around at Ascot on Saturday."

When he was arrested two days before the race, Rodgerson denied making the threats but later confessed when police proved that the emails and text messages had come from his laptop and mobile phone. He told officers he had no intention of carrying out the threat.

At court he pleaded guilty to a charge of threatening to commit damage. The court was told that Rodgerson had had a gambling habit since the age of 19. Joseph Hart, defending, said: "Betting on horses seemed somewhat glamorous and it was all rather exciting. He was put in touch with a syndicate ... and they were the people putting up much of the money.

"The syndicate would tell him when and where to put money on and get the best odds. This was a clever series of bets and it required quite precise timing because the odds changed so rapidly."

But Rodgerson mistimed the Conduit bet and was "utterly terrified" with the consequences of not paying the money back. Mr Hart said: "The panic continued and he committed this frankly unsophisticated and deeply stupid crime. Yes, it is a valuable horse. However, nothing that Mr Rodgerson did stopped the horse running. He made absolutely no attempt to carry out the threat. He probably does not even know where Newmarket is."

Rodgerson was sentenced to 34 weeks in prison suspended for two years and ordered to carry out 240 hours' unpaid work. But there was one saving grace for him. His solicitor persuaded the judge not to impose court costs – because Conduit won the race and Rodgerson still owes his customers £55,000.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions