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Last Updated: Monday, 3 January, 2005, 12:37 GMT
Tsunami e-mail hoaxer admits guilt
Coffins, Southern Thailand
The government would not inform relatives via e-mail, police say
A Lincolnshire man has pleaded guilty to sending hoax e-mails to relatives of people missing following the Asian tsunami disaster.

Christopher Pierson, 40, was arrested on New Year's Eve and charged on Sunday with malicious communication and causing a public nuisance.

Father-of-two Pierson, from Ruskington, appeared before Horseferry Road Magistrates' Court in London on Monday.

He was remanded in custody by District Judge Daphne Wickham until 24 January.

The court was told Pierson sent up to 35 emails to relatives who had posted their details on the Sky News website.

He said it was simply a moment of madness
Andrew McArthur, defending

Olive Assien, prosecuting, said the emails purported to be from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in Thailand.

They stated "that the UK Government regretted to inform the victim that the missing person they were inquiring about was confirmed dead".

After checking with internet service provider AOL, a number of email accounts were found including one used to notify stricken relatives.

'No knowledge'

Pierson was arrested and in interview he admitted being online at the time the 35 emails were sent out but claimed to have "no knowledge" of them.

He said he remembered opening up email addresses of individuals who had left messages on the Sky service but could not remember typing up the email addresses himself.

The court was told that not all the 35 families or individuals who were emailed had been traced.

"Some of the families may not realise these are false emails," said Ms Assien.

'Tragedy' blamed

Andrew McArthur, defending, said: "He said it was simply a moment of madness.

"He does remember sending emails, but he obviously wasn't in clear thought at the time."

After the hearing Pierson - blaming family tragedy for his behaviour - said in a statement: "I apologise to everyone I have hurt.

"If I could contact them all, I would. I apologise to them."

In court he admitted one charge of causing a public nuisance and a further charge under Section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act.

The government has continued to stress that relatives would not be informed of a death by e-mail.

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