Victims who lived in fear of caller

Victims of the bomb hoaxer yesterday recalled their fear when they received calls from Paul Bell last July.

Victims of the bomb hoaxer yesterday recalled their fear when they received calls from Paul Bell last July.

The Rev Canon Murray Haig - at the time the vicar of Alnwick - received a series of calls threatening to bomb his church.

One of the calls said: "Christians will die."

He said: "They were very unpleasant threats, and they weren't just against me, they were against the church. In a sense the whole community was threatened.

"Although I knew it was probably a hoax, there was no way I could be sure about that, and I was responsible for people coming into the church, so it made life very difficult.

"He said the most dreadful things on the phone."

After a three-year sentence was handed down, Mr Haig, 66, who has since retired, said: "I hate to see anybody punished. I don't know him from Adam and presumably he didn't know me. But you really can't have people going around making threats like that. I think it's right he should be punished.

"But I bear him no malice. There are always reasons why people do what they do, and I do feel sorry for him. He's the instrument of his own misery."

Wade Sherman, 29, course co-ordinator for a team of students from St Cloud University, Minnesota, who travel each year to Alnwick Castle, received calls saying: "Death to America."

Speaking in April after Bell admitted the hoaxes, Mr Sherman said: "The first time he rang, he was on for a couple of hours and I just took the phone off the hook because it went on so long.

"It was clear that it was because I am American that he wanted to lay into me.

"We have a very close relationship with the police and I reported it immediately."

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer