YouTuber who named killers Cashman and Chapman before they were arrested guilty of harassment
A YOUTUBER who named killers Thomas Cashman and Connor Chapman as murder suspects before they were arrested has been convicted of the harassment of a security firm boss who he claimed in a podcast was a major organised crime figure. Reformed art thief and fraudster Paul Hendry, 58, does live podcasts on YouTube and tweets about organised crime under the pseudonym Art Hostage. After the shocking murder last August of Olivia Pratt-Korbel (below), he named in a podcast Thomas Cashman (top left) as the main suspect before he was arrested by police. He went on to reveal the names of a number of people he claimed were suspects in a series of unsolved gangland related killings across Merseyside.
Within 24 hours of the murder of Elle Edwards, 26, who was shot outside the Lighthouse Inn in Wallasey Village last Christmas Eve, Mr Hendry revealed in a podcast what turned out to be the real motive behind the violence that saw four other men shot and injured, and later named the chief suspect as Chapman (top right). Both suspects were later arrested by Merseyside Police and subsequently charged and convicted of the unconnected murders. In April Cashman was sentenced to a minimum 42 years in prison after he was found guilty of Olivia's murder.
Chapman was caged for a minimum of 48 years for the murder of Elle (below) and injuring the others last month. Hendry (above) claims gangland sources on Merseyside provided him with the intelligence that he made public on his podcast as a self-styled "citizen journalist," albeit with no media law knowledge. Wirral Magistrates' Court heard on Thursday, August 3 2023, that on November 8 last year Hendry named in a podcast security boss Ian Stewart, 40, as a key figure in the Merseyside organised crime scene.
Hendry claimed a source had told him he was involved in drug and firearms trafficking, people smuggling and serious violence. In the podcast Hendry also claimed Mr Stewart was linked to Spanish and Mexican drug cartels, had been dealing cocaine since the age of 13, and was involved in supplying firearms to those responsible for the murder of grandmother Jacqueline Rutter, 53, in October 2022.
The video included details of the victim’s name, address and business. Hendry told his followers to “look into” the victim. Later the same day he published three tweets making similar suggestions of involvement in organised crime, the court heard.
Mr Stewart strenuously denied all of these allegations in court and police said they have found no intelligence to support any of the claims. Mr Stewart was alerted to the live podcast the night it went out and listened to it the next day, initially finding the content amusing, he told the court.
However, after listening to other Art Hostage podcasts, and hearing some of the gangland figures Hendry discussed, he became fearful for his safety, he told the court. Mr Stewart said he was "dumbfounded" by the allegations and that they had since lost him business. He said: "No one will touch me. I was due to sign a contract with Signature Living hotels that was worth £60,000. A member of their staff had a word to the management that I was on this podcast and the contract was never offered. "People were a bit scared to use my business, two members of staff left because they were fearful of me." Mr Stewart, who has a number of historic convictions for violence, and who in 2020 was convicted of drunk driving and driving without insurance in an incident that saw him "scuffling" with police officers, told the court the allegations of involvement with organised crime were entirely false. He said that although Mr Hendry had got a number of details about his upbringing and where he lived correct in the podcast, all claims about his involvement in organised crime or Mrs Rutter's murder were false.
He said that he had, in fact been "looking to help steer people away from gangs," so Hendry's allegations were a "total contradiction." DC Charles Calvert told the court the Art Hostage podcasts came to the attention of Merseyside Police in September 2022 and there were concerns within the force his naming of Cashman and other suspects could prejudice ongoing investigations. These concerns continued after the murder of Mrs Rutter, after Hendry continued to name suspects, he said. Mr Calvert said: "It was adversely affecting the ongoing investigation and a number of members of the public and the criminal fraternity in Merseyside were listening and affecting their actions in Merseyside itself." He said on October 7 2022, after Cashman was charged, Hendry was sent a cease and desist notice by the force to stop commenting on Cashman, which he complied with. Mr Calvert said Hendry's claims had directly led to one of Mrs Rutter's sons assaulting someone named by Hendry as being involved. He said: "There was an assault outside a pub involving one of the sons of Jacqueline Rutter, who said at the time that he had heard the victim was involved in the murder from being named on the Art Hostage podcast. Mr Calvert said the force had launched an investigation into who was behind the Art Hostage podcasts even before Mr Stewart phoned 999 to report being named by him. After Mr Stewart's complaint Merseyside Police officers raided Hendry's home in Pevensey Bay, East Sussex, on November 24 last year, when he was arrested on suspicion of harassment and computer and electronic devices were seized.
According to the CPS, Hendry "seemed to revel in the chaos he had caused and stated on his Twitter account, 'ALL OUT WAR DECLARED'." He was later charged with one count of harassment and another of malicious communications in connection with the tweets. Mr Calvert said Hendry claims to have a source about Mr Stewart within the National Crime Agency (NCA), but an officer from the agency said to Mr Calvert in an email that it held no intelligence on Mr Stewart. Hendry, who the court heard has convictions for fraud, burglary, assault and benefit fraud, admitted naming Mr Stewart in the podcast and tweets, but insisted it was because he believed the claims were true. He claimed to be a citizen journalist who was shining a light on organised crime across Merseyside due to his contacts, but said he was not the "BBC or CNN, so unable to carry out thorough checks into what he was told." He said: "Information came in from someone who identified as the ex partner of Ian Stewart and she 'wanted the world to know the truth about him.' He claimed he then "corroborated it" with three named Liverpool gangland contacts who he said had previously provided him with "accurate information." He said: "When Ian Stewart arrived with his complaint, it was a convenient vehicle for Merseyside Police to use to try to get Art Hostage shutdown. I find it hard to understand why this is not a civil libel matter and why it has been treated as a criminal matter." Under cross examination from Hendry, who represented himself, Mr Calvert admitted police had not asked Mr Stewart to provide any evidence of the impact upon his business from Hendry's claims.
Hendry also argued that there had been no attempt by anyone to get the content removed or complaints to YouTube or Twitter.
Hendry said PSI Dave Rawsthorne, a civilian investigator from Merseyside Police's major crime unit, had visited his home in May to ask for assistance in an ongoing murder investigation and argued that one arm of the force actually welcomed his information.
He also complained to the court that his bid for Mr Rawsthorne to be called as a witness had been rejected by the court. Finding Hendry guilty of the harassment count, Judge Paul Healey said he had taken no real steps to verify the information he was given and should have known that what he published amounted to harassment, albeit for a short period of time over one day. However, he said the prosecution had failed to evidence beyond reasonable doubt that Hendry knew the claims were wrong and therefore he was not guilty of the malicious communications offence. Hendry, who vowed to continue his podcast, was fined £250 and ordered to pay £660 costs with £100 to victim services. He was also placed under an indefinite restraining order never to mention Mr Stewart again in any of his podcasts or publications.
Hendry apologised to the court and to Mr Stewart and vowed to never discuss him again and to voluntarily take down the podcast in question and the relevant tweets.
After the hearing Senior Crown Prosecutor Thomas Hanlon of CPS Mersey Cheshire said: “Paul Hendry claims to be a form of crime journalist. But his social media posts were nothing but fiction claiming to be fact and caused real problems for those involved.
“He creates this content to raise the profile of his social media and YouTube channels, feeding his ego, reckless as to the collateral damage his content causes and without conducting due diligence on the information received.
“Spurious allegations such as these cause real problems for our communities and ongoing investigations by the police. They can also endanger the trial process for the Crown Prosecution Service and the Courts.
“This victim had nothing to do with the crimes Hendry accused him of being connected with. His course of conduct implicating the man with high level organised crime, firearms and drug dealing is criminal and he has now been found guilty."