Craig Simpson was last driven out of the house in mid-March of this year. The 56-year-old body was dragged from nearby River Lugg in Herefordshire a week later.
The police discovered messages on his cell phone, which revealed that he had recently been blackmailed to make bitcoin payments to prevent criminals sharing his private information with family and friends, even though nothing on his phone or computer indicates that he had visited a website for adults.
He was the victim of "ransomware" – a gruesome attack by computer criminals who extorted their victims by threatening to spread lies that they have seen online porn. The mental torture that may have led to his death is hard to imagine, but the agony of his loving father Bernard is easier to understand.
Devastated: Bernard Simpson wants his wife and wife Hazel to know the ransomware scam that cost his son his life
The 80-year-old retired company boss is in Lanzarote on a much-needed break. But it does not help to cure the heartache when he loses his beloved son. At his side is Hazel, his second wife – his first wife (Craig's mother) died of cancer four years ago. But despite the sunshine and company of his 79-year-old wife, there is rarely a moment when Bernard can shake off the ubiquitous grief.
Bernard says, "Something has broken inside of me that can never be repaired. I share this agony only in the hope that others will not suffer the same fate inflicted on my son.
Craig was my eldest son and the rock in the heart of our family. His loss has completely devastated us all, and has also hit hundreds in our community who paid their respects at his funeral. The criminals should be forced to feel the heartache they caused. "
The police discovered Craig's car at the Riverside Inn in Aymestrey, North Herefordshire after his wife called her and was worried that he had not returned home. Policemen discovered his cell phone in the car – and there were emails showing that someone had blackmailed him, and threatened to expose his alleged adult website visits to close friends and family.
At the September investigation, Detective Constable Theresa Wood said, "Mr Simpson was sent an e-mail by an unknown person who had asked for money over the Internet in Bitcoin.
"The e-mail states that anyone in their phone contacts would find out what they were using the Internet for if they did not pay."
According to police investigations, Craig had paid two sums for undisclosed amounts and the claims came from Iran. There was no way to track down the criminals.
Craig had been prescribed antidepressants in the months before his death. But Investigator Mark Bricknell said during the investigation, "Mr. Simpson was a healthy, hardworking man of the community. It looks as if he has been blackmailed and that has added or caused the stress he suffers. He may have considered suicide, but despite the remainder of the notes, I'm not satisfied enough that this was his purpose. The coroner made an open judgment, not sure that Craig would not accidentally fall into the ice-cold river after heavy snow. But Craig's father is convinced that the blackmailers contributed to his death. His eyes are watering with tears as he describes the positive energy that the married father of two grown daughters shared with everyone he met – and how he is desperately trying to pay tribute to his son by refusing to hate to be eaten.
FOUR POSSIBILITIES TO FIGHT THE THREAT OF RANSOM
- Delete dubious news without opening it. Never react, as this can lead to more money demands.
- Change passwords Because criminals use data derived from security breaches on websites and social media hacks.
- Be vigilant and cover computer cameras. Be careful when sharing personal information on social media and do not click on pop-up windows.
- Tell others from attacks. Report to the police and the crime investigation agency Action Fraud.
Seven-year-old grandfather from Shropshire says, "These blackmailers may be angry and do not care what they do, but if I hate them, they'll just destroy me. Of course, I would like to see the villains brought to justice, but the important thing is that no one else falls victim to their terrible crime. "
Bernard is animated as he describes the "special bond" he had with his devoted eldest son – he throws his arms in the air as he expresses the warmth they share. Craig would contact his father daily. Bernard says, "He was the most straightforward and decent man you could ever meet. Nobody said a bad word about him.
Craig would always try to bring a smile to her face. As he entered the room, he felt better in life. He was such a positive mind and that makes his death so difficult to understand. "
They had a passion for the Blackburn Rovers Football Club, which grew up in Lancashire along with its two younger brothers, aged 55 and 43. Bernard says, "He always called me after a game and when the team lost – which was a lot. Often Craig said I should look to the bright side and the team would soon make a good run and the results would be their way go. Craig was also a fan of cars. Already at the age of eight, he was able to identify most brands and models on the street. Bernard says, "His first car was a Triumph Herald. Craig had a real weakness for classic engines and had an almost encyclopedic memory for facts about them. My son had everything to live on and it was a dream of him to own a vintage car in the future. That will never happen now. "
Tragedy: Craig Simpson was a victim of Iranian blackmailers
Berg's voice crackles with emotion, but he does not let himself be swallowed by grief – he smiles and greets others in the hotel complex he's in – and does not share the terrible secret he admits has knocked him down. He adds, "I talk to him all the time. That's the only way I can manage. Without Hazel bumping into me, I think it's impossible to keep going. "
Not only was Craig a loving family, but he also had a successful career as a sales and marketing manager, even though he spent several weeks traveling in Europe.
Bernard admits, "He worked hard, but part of me wondered if he was pushing too hard sometimes – being so busy can lead to fatigue and his mind could be fragile and make him sick."
He says his son had recently suffered from tinnitus – although he never wanted to bother anyone with it. He says, "The day before he died, he told me he was going to see a doctor – but there was nothing to fear. I said I would call the next day to see how he was doing. But we never spoke again. "
On the verge of tears, he gets up to leave. But not without a last word about those who commit "ransomware" threats against innocents like Craig.
"These people have to be stopped in their tracks," he says. "They cause untold misery. Your newspaper may prevent this new computer scourge from falling victim to others. I really hope so. "
HOW VICTIMS OF VILE RISKS PANICKED, PAYED UP – THUS MORE CLAIMS
Some people who are victims of ransomware are paying off
John Partridge – not his real name – cried The Sunday on Sunday when he admitted paying 250 pounds to criminals, only to be plagued by further money demands.
The 65-year-old landscaper says, "Guilt was at the center of being so irrational. I had watched pornography two days before. I felt like a naughty student who had fallen into action. What if my wife finds out? What would the grandchildren think of what I had done? "
John from Kent adds, "I panicked when I learned that they had recorded what I had seen on a computer camera. The stress was unbearable. I could not sleep, had panic attacks – my wife thought I was ill. In the end I paid. "
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He managed to pay £ 250 of the £ 350 demanded in Bitcoin within the 48-hour period. There followed more demands for ransomware, which, however, led to nothing. John put her out and found he'd been cheated on by a cruel blackmail trick.
Kerry Fox has been a police officer for more than 35 years and still works as a civilian with the police. He recently received a "ransom warning threat". The 60-year-old from Hampshire says: "The bullying nature of these e-mails is sick. Luckily I was made of strict stuff and knew that I had not done anything wrong. But the fact that technology spied on people's computer cameras worried me.
"First I put tape over my webcam. I have some teenage boys and talked to them about this terrible crime. "Kerry told his local police station about the ransom. He says, "It's blackmail. If a person with threats makes an unjustified claim to win either for himself or for another who intends to inflict a loss on another, he or she may be imprisoned for up to 14 years. "
Jenny Millar was a nurse for 48 years, believing she had seen everything, but was shaken by an attack on ransomware she received.
She says, "The blackmail was evil and cooled me to the bone. It contained my computer name and password, and I felt hurt. However, experience has shown me that in a panic situation it is best to step back and set up the kettle. "
Jenny, 68, from Headley, Surrey, adds: "I sat down to read the news with a cup of tea. In the end I almost fell from the chair with laughter. I have never visited an adult website, I do not have a computer webcam and I would not mind sharing private personal information with my family. "
Their advice to the victims who visit them, whether or not they have visited adult websites, is to ignore them. And make a cup of tea.