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Last Updated: Monday, 3 January, 2005, 15:44 GMT
Email victim condemns 'sick' act
A man who was told by an internet hoaxer that relatives missing in the tsunami disaster were dead has condemned the action as a "sick trick".

Steven Baxendale, 39, of Aldershot, Hampshire, posted an appeal for help on a Sky News internet site.

On Monday Christopher Pierson, from Lincolnshire, pleaded guilty to sending more than 30 hoax emails.

Mr Baxendale said: "This was a malicious prank that could have caused a lot of upset."

It was a sick practical trick at a time like this, when people are so worried about friends or family
Steven Baxendale
He is searching for news of Sheffield couple Natalie and Andrew McLeish, who were taking a belated honeymoon on the Thai island of Koh Phi Phi when the waves struck on Boxing Day.

They had been staying at the Princess Diving Spa Resort and have not been heard of since they phoned home on Christmas Day.

Following Pierson's hearing, Mr Baxendale said: "Obviously I've been checking my email a lot during the last week and on New Year's Eve I received a message supposedly from the Foreign Office.

"They said they knew I had been searching for people and that they had to inform me that they were dead.

"It was very distressing, but I am quite computer literate and within about 60 seconds I realised it was a hoax.

"The email address didn't seem right and it didn't look as though it had come from the Foreign Office.

"It was a sick practical trick at a time like this, when people are so worried about friends or family."

He added: "I really hope he is handed an appropriate punishment."

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