How did violent fantasist end up marrying a billionaire's daughter? The astonishing story of the drug dealer's son who posed as an MI6 agent  before blackmailing family with explicit photos 

James Casbolt

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  • James Casbolt pleaded guilty sending threatening texts and emails containing pictures of his ex
  • He first came to the police's attention aged 15 for armed robbery
  • Casbolt told Haley Meijer he had worked a spy for security services 
  • Friends knew him for walking around with a fake limp to mimic rapper 2Pac

 

James Casbolt who has been jailed for 12 years at Truro Crown Court today

Not so long ago, James Casbolt was one of the select guests at a gala dinner in New York. 

He cut a dash in his tuxedo, sipping champagne and enjoying the company of some of the wealthiest people on the planet.

The de Rothchilds were at the black-tie function. So, too, was billionaire tycoon Sir David Tang, a friend of Prince Charles, along with steel magnate Lakshmi Mittal.

The charity evening at Sotheby's, on Manhattan's Upper East Side, was hosted by the Duke and Duchess of Marlborough to raise funds for the restoration of Blenheim Palace, the ancestral family seat in Oxfordshire.

A table at the exclusive do cost $10,000 — small change to those who attended.

So what were James Casbolt's credentials for being at such an event? As the daughter of billionaire Hank Meijer, co-chairman of a giant American supermarket chain, glamorous blonde Haley Meijer Casbolt was his entree into a gilded world. 

How else, to put it bluntly, would James Casbolt, who was neither rich nor famous, have been mingling with society figures from both sides of the Atlantic?

Given what has happened since, the same question must be uppermost in the minds of many in Ms Meijer's jet-set circle.

But then, no one at that event four years ago could have imagined the kind of man James Casbolt really was, still less the extraordinary and disturbing chain of events that would unfold shortly after the soiree.

Those events reached their denouement this week when Casbolt appeared in the dock in his native Cornwall.

Smartly dressed for the occasion, James Casbolt told Haley Meijer that he had worked as a spy

Smartly dressed for the occasion, James Casbolt told Haley Meijer that he had worked as a spy

The judge at Truro Crown Court, a man not given to hyperbole, called him 'evil' before jailing him for 12 years for blackmailing Haley, from whom he had split in 2013.

Casbolt had demanded money in exchange for removing sexually explicit pictures of his estranged wife from the internet. The 39-year-old had told her family that, if his demands were not met, he could 'tickle the public interest for years'.

And Haley was not his only victim. He also stalked two young British women — offences reflected in the severity of his sentence.

The story of how James Casbolt, a loner from St Ives, inveigled himself into, then proceeded to terrorise, a super-rich American dynasty (Hank Meijer and his brother Doug are worth £5.5 billion, according to Forbes magazine) has the elements of a psychological drama and, at times, a spoof spy film.

 

For Casbolt, as absurd as it may now seem, portrayed himself as a British version of Jason Bourne, the fictional CIA assassin played by Matt Damon in the Bourne movies, to attract and manipulate women.

His CV posted on the internet reads like a cod Secret Service file: 'Name: James Casbolt. Rank: Commander. Military bases worked: Boscombe Down, RAF Lakenheath.'

Casbolt goes on to claim that he worked for MI6 and a string of other intelligence agencies and, during his career with the security services, took part in sinister government programmes to create genetically engineered 'super soldiers'.

James Casbolt first came to the attention of the police when he carried out an armed robbery in Cornwall

James Casbolt first came to the attention of the police when he carried out an armed robbery in Cornwall

Along the way, he says, he suffered amnesia (just like Jason Bourne, funnily enough).

It is difficult to believe that, in the cold light of day, anyone could believe such far-fetched tales.

But one of those taken in by 'Commander' Casbolt was Haley Meijer, who went on to have a son with him. The two-year-old lives with her in the U.S.

Sadly for Haley, there was only one thing her husband did have in common with a secret service operative: he was 'extremely dangerous'. These are the judge's words, not mine.

Casbolt was just 15 when he came to the attention of the police — for an armed robbery on a Spar supermarket in Carbis Bay, near his home in St Ives.

His previous conviction emerged during the latest court case. Few details were given, but Casbolt boasts about the robbery in his 'auto-biography', which is still posted on the internet. Who knows if his former wife knew of its existence or ever took the trouble to read it? If she had, surely she would have been chilled to the bone.

'I stuck my replica Beretta [pistol] in the face of the girl behind the till and demanded the money,' writes Casbolt.

'My friend made a few of the people, who were standing around, go to the back of the shop as he held them at gunpoint.

'The girl went pale and became unresponsive as I demanded the money. I jumped over the counter and tried to open the till myself. I didn't know what button to press, so I began to push randomly.

The pair married in 2011, shortly before that gala dinner at Sotheby's. However, Haley's family had already seen through Casbolt. Her father was opposed to the relationship from the start, Truro Crown Court heard

The pair married in 2011, shortly before that gala dinner at Sotheby's. However, Haley's family had already seen through Casbolt. Her father was opposed to the relationship from the start, Truro Crown Court heard

'An alarm went off on the till and people in the back of the shop began to shout. I panicked. We ran out of the shop and ran home.

'We told my father what we'd done and he seemed very proud of me. My father hid the replica guns at the back of the flat for us.

'The next day, the robbery was on the local news and my father seemed even more proud of me.'

His father's reaction is easier to understand when you learn a little more about his history.

Ostensibly, Peter Casbolt ran a 'business' importing antiques. But it was just a front. In reality, he was a drug-dealing gangster with a string of properties on the Costa del Crime.

He spent much of his life in and out of prison. He died, aged 53, from drink and drug-induced liver failure in 2003.

Like father, like son, in other words. The two may have pursued different criminal paths, but they seemed to have shared the same psychotic streak.

James Casbolt eventually served 28 days at Feltham Young Offenders Institution for the robbery at the Spar supermarket. He never really looked back.

Any chance he had to make something of his life disappeared when his parents split up when he was 17. He left Cornwall to live with his father and his second wife in Reading, Berkshire. He acquired a stepbrother in the process. Simon Millward is now 33 and spoke to us this week.

He was reluctant to tell us everything he knew, but said James spent the remainder of his teenage years and his 20s 'ducking and diving for his father' and 'smoking too much pot'. He said James had never had a proper job.

James Casbolt walks to Truro Crown Court where he admitted sending threatening texts and emails containing pictures of his ex as well as posting images and bizarre claims about her online

James Casbolt walks to Truro Crown Court where he admitted sending threatening texts and emails containing pictures of his ex as well as posting images and bizarre claims about her online

'I've seen all the stuff James has been writing online about M16,' he said. 'It's to impress women. It's amazing how many people have been taken in by it.

'James is a very intelligent guy and that's how he roped people in.'

By the time he met Haley Meijer via the internet in 2009, Casbolt, who has a 13-year-old daughter from a previous relationship, had built up a dedicated online following for his outlandish claims and adventures.

But how did he worm his way into the life of someone so privileged? Haley's family home in Michigan, until her parents' divorce a few years ago, was a mansion with a marbled hallway, central winding staircase, sun room with grand piano, wine cellar, gym and home cinema.

Casbolt, by contrast, had returned to Cornwall following his father's death and was living with his mother at her small terrace home in St Ives. Friends from his school days describe him as a 'loner' who was known for walking around the Cornish town with a fake limp to mimic his then idol, the late American rapper, 2Pac.

Ms Meijer, who describes herself as a singer/songwriter and music producer, worked briefly as a web designer for a record company after studying art history at Western Michigan University, but, in truth, she was rather a lost soul looking for a purpose in life.

James Casbolt, it seems, provided that purpose.

Within months of striking up a relationship with him online, she came to Britain and moved in with him (and his mother). They were engaged not long afterwards.

That she was infatuated with him is evident from this posting on an internet forum: 'Being engaged to James Casbolt, I hear all sorts of stories of his experiences in underground bases and cloning facilities as his memories come flooding back and he works to heal and overcome his past trauma. It is fascinating,' she wrote.

Indeed. The pair married in 2011, shortly before that gala dinner at Sotheby's. However, Haley's family had already seen through Casbolt. Her father was opposed to the relationship from the start, Truro Crown Court heard.

Their wedding reception, such as it was, took place at the four- star Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Ms Meijer's home town, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Haley Meijer is the daughter of US hypermarket tycoon Hank Meijer, pictured at the opening of one of his stores

Haley Meijer is the daughter of US hypermarket tycoon Hank Meijer, pictured at the opening of one of his stores

It is a perfectly good hotel (the most expensive suite costs £400 a night), but it's certainly not the kind of establishment where you would expect a billionaire's daughter to celebrate the most important day of her life.

It is unclear whether any of her family even attended. 'It's a private matter,' said a spokesman for the Meijer corporation when we asked them this week.

Tellingly, perhaps, only one photograph of the big day could be found. It shows the couple sitting on their bed in their hotel room. He is wearing a dark shirt and jacket. She is wearing a plain white dress.

Just a few months after their nuptials, Casbolt joined the U.S. Army in Texas. His service record reveals that he was discharged a year later in December 2012 after failing his 'advanced training curriculum'.

It was during this time that Casbolt asked his wife to send him sexually explicit images of herself. The judge at Truro Crown Court told him that 'they were intended to give you pleasure and solace while you were away serving as a soldier in the U.S. Army.

'Your wife gave them to you because she loved you. The photos and videos were of a personal nature and not for anyone else's eyes.'

But she discovered — from his mobile phone — that he had shown the pictures to other people. Ms Meijer felt betrayed, but gave him 'another chance'.

Casbolt repaid her by becoming increasingly violent. On one occasion, following a disagreement, he jumped on top of her on their bed and shoved her head into the mattress. She was cradling their baby son at the time.

She kicked him out of their flat in Texas and began divorce proceedings. It was the beginning of a nightmare ordeal.

Casbolt returned to Britain and began sending her threatening emails. He first warned her: 'I will now release porn pictures of you to the world.'

Tassy Swallow, 20, was approached in the street by Casbolt, who later harassed and threatened her

Tassy Swallow, 20, was approached in the street by Casbolt, who later harassed and threatened her

He immediately carried out that threat and posted them on Facebook. In another email, he said: '2M [million]. Put in my bank account. I will then stop talking about the Meijer family.

'If my terms are not met, I can tickle the public interest for years, until the Meijers are so infamous in the world they will not be able to walk down the streets safely.'

Casbolt then posted photos of himself with a sword and a gun and threatened to kill Haley's family. Casbolt was arrested last year. But he was not finished.

While on bail, he targeted two young women from Cornwall. One was hair stylist Simone Everett, whom he had known since she was just 14.

The other was former Great Britain junior surfer Tassy Swallow, who was chosen as an Olympic torchbearer (she took over the flame from sailor Ben Ainslie at Land's End).

The women were left fearing for their safety after receiving threatening and offensive Facebook messages. They were sent links to Slender Man, a sinister figure from internet horror fiction.

Casbolt also approached 20-year-old Miss Swallow on the street. Posting her reaction on Facebook this week, she said: 'No matter how safe you feel in a small town/community, you should always be more careful. Girls/ladies in particular, tell your mums where you're are going and who you're with. You never know who's about and what might be ACCEPTABLE in THEIR heads.'

She added: 'Thoughts are with the U.S. family. Bet they're heaps relieved after today's hearing . . . I know I am.'

When Casbolt appeared in court last year, his legal team raised concerns about his mental state. But the judge said there would have to be something 'quite exceptional' in the psychiatric reports to stop him from standing trial.

In the end Casbolt pleaded guilty.

Before he was sent down this week, the sentencing judge told him: 'You are not suffering from a mental disorder. The circumstances of these offences reveal a highly intelligent and criminal mind. You were not mad, but you were bad.'

There is little doubt that every member of the Meijer family would second that.  

Larry White
By Larry White 01/08/2015 12:47:00