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An autistic man has been jailed after he claimed suicide bombers were in a Hungarian football stadium, ready to kill fans unless money was transferred into a cryptocurrency account.
Joshua Udall said UEFA would have ‘mass deaths on their hands’ if they didn’t pay ahead of the Netherlands vs Czech Republic Round of 16 match, in June 2021.
The 34-year-old’s threat sparked an international response from specialist units, senior officers and investigators who treated the threat as ‘genuine’ at the Puskas Arena in Budapest, Hungary, for nearly 24 hours.
With authorities treating it as a live incident, the EURO 2020 game went ahead and the Czech Republic pulled off one of the shocks of the tournament to beat the Netherlands 2-0.
Joshua Udall (pictured) said UEFA would have ‘mass deaths on their hands’ if they didn’t pay money to his cryptocurrency wallet
The EURO 2020 game went ahead and the Czech Republic pulled off one of the shocks of the tournament to beat the Netherlands 2-0. Pictured, Czech Republic’s defender Vladimir Coufal holds his national flag as he celebrates
It was eventually found to be a hoax despite threats of suicide bombers and eight remote-controlled explosive devices that would be set off if payment wasn’t received.
After admitting one charge of communicating false information with intent, Udall was jailed for 12 months at Winchester Crown Court, despite claiming he had done it to raise funds for his father’s cancer treatment.
Jailing him, the judge said deterrence was of ‘critical importance’ for such cases and the effect upon those investigating the threat and making the decision to allow the match to continue could not be underestimated.
Prosecutor Kaj Scarsbrook said: ‘On Sunday, June 27, 2021, at 10.26am a text message was sent to 999.
‘The message said: “This is a very serious message. We have sent five suicide bombers in and around the Puskas stadium, Budapest, for the Netherlands v Czech football match.”
‘He gave details of a cryptocurrency wallet.
Udall was jailed for 12 months at Winchester Crown Court (pictured) despite claiming he had done it to raise funds for his father’s cancer treatment
‘The message then said: “The entire amount must be sent in one transaction. UEFA will have mass deaths on their hands unless they pay.”‘
Mr Scarsbrook said there was a ‘fairly significant impact’ caused by the threat.
‘The match was due to kick off at 4pm and several specialist units were alerted and it was treated as live until 9pm,’ he said.
‘It involved senior officers and investigators who were tasked to deal with the matter which was initially treated as genuine until 10.18am the following day.’
The court heard the phone number used by Udall was linked to a device in his home in Aldershot, Hampshire, and he was arrested.
Regarding Udall’s intentions, Mr Scarsbrook told the court: ‘The defendant told the authorities it was in some way an attempt to gain money to fund his father’s treatment.’
However, it was heard his father has since died of cancer.
In mitigation, Adam Williams said Udall’s ‘chain of thought’ was linked to his autistic spectrum disorder.
Sentencing Udall, Judge Angela Morris said the impact of his message ‘cannot be underestimated’.
She said: ‘Senior officers, investigators and specialist units within the UK and abroad were tasked to deal with the matter.
‘And it was treated initially as genuine for a considerable amount of time going into the next day.
‘The effects of what you did are so serious that it has crossed the custody threshold.
‘This offence crossed international borders resulting in unnecessary expense for both the UK and Hungary.
‘There was a financial motivation here which on one level elevates the culpability but it was for misguided reasons.
‘The single track mindset was the desire to help your ailing father, rather than simple financial gain for yourself.
‘Nevertheless, whatever your misguided reasoning was for committing this offence, its effect upon those tasked with investigating the threat and making the decision to allow the football match to continue cannot be underestimated.
‘You made no attempt to stop the chain of events which you put in train as a result of sending this message.’
Jailing Udall, Judge Morris reduced his sentence to 12 months from a starting point of 20 months imprisonment due to his guilty plea and autism diagnosis.
‘The custody threshold has been passed and as the authorities make clear in cases of this nature, deterrence is of critical importance,’ she continued.
‘It will be rare, if ever, that a bomb hoax offence will result in a non-custodial sentence, regardless of personal mitigation.’
Udall will serve half of his 12-month sentence in prison before the possibility of release under licence. He was also ordered to pay a surcharge of £156.