A gay civil servant was blackmailed for over £5,300 after accidentally sending suggestive text messages to two men in April.

The victim had been drinking when he sent a series of raunchy messages to a number of his friends but mistakenly included joiner David McAthey, who he had spoken to about repairs on his fence, the Shields Gazette reported.

McAthey, 27, of South Shields, began replying to the texts, thinking they were from a woman.

But when he realised he had been communicating with a man, he and his friend John Mercer, 29, also of South Shields, threatened to beat the victim and expose him in a local newspaper if he did not hand over £500.

The pair visited the victim’s home to collect £300 and Mercer hit the man and his partner. They then demanded a further £5,000 which the man handed over in a car park.

Newcastle crown court heard that the victim went to the police after Mercer and McAthey demanded another £5,000.

McAthey and Mercer admitted blackmail and were jailed for six months and 18 months respectively.