A MAN found dead in the River Lugg was being blackmailed by internet scammers in Iran.

An inquest this week heard that Stephen Craig Simpson, known as Craig, was reported missing from his Leominster home by his wife.

The following day police found his car at the Riverside Inn at Aymestrey.

Officers discovered his mobile phone in his car with emails showing efforts made to blackmail the 56-year-old.

His body was found on March 24 of this year – a week after he was reported missing – in water near to Mortimer’s Cross.

Speaking at Monday’s inquest, DC Theresa Wood said: “Mr Simpson had been sent an email from an unknown person who made a demand for some money over the internet in Bitcoin.

“The email stated if he didn’t comply and make this payment everybody in his phone contacts would find out what he had been using the internet for.”

Police investigations showed two payments had been made by Mr Simpson in Bitcoin.

DC Wood said their enquiries showed the demands for Bitcoin were being made from Iran.

She said as there is no treaty in Iran, police were unable to extradite any known suspects.

Coroner Mark Bricknell urged anyone being blackmailed to go to the police.

Mr Simpson’s father Bernard said: “It is totally completely out of character with Craig.

“He was a normal person. He was least likely to commit any sort of crime or misdemeanour.”

In a statement read to the inquest, Mr Simpson’s wife said she had worried about him as he seemed distracted.

They had visited the doctors together in the months before his death. He had been prescribed antidepressants.

Mr Simpson, of Pierrepont Road, was a sales manager for a firm in Southampton and travelled a lot.

Notes to his family were found in his car, but the coroner Mr Bricknell said he could not be certain that Mr Simpson had wanted to take his own life.

He added: “Mr Simpson was a sound, hardworking man of the community.

“It appears he was blackmailed and this added or caused the stress he was suffering.

“He was clearly distressed and may have contemplated suicide but despite the notes I am not sufficiently satisfied that was necessarily his intent.”

There had been heavy snowfall in the days before his death.

Mr Bricknell said they could not be sure he did not fall into the river. He recorded an open conclusion.

DC Wood added after the inquest: "Police can confirm that as part of our investigation into the tragic death of Stephen Simpson, an analysis was carried out on his mobile phone, which was found to contain no inappropriate content."