A gambler has been jailed after he blackmailed dog owners by telling them he would kill their lost pets if they didn't pay up.

Mohammed Miah contacted distraught owners who had offered rewards online and told them he had their dogs, Worcester Crown Court was told.

Among the victims of the "man's best friend" were people in Worcestershire. 

The 25-year-old asked for sums of hundreds of pounds to be paid into his account, Gareth Walters, prosecuting, told the court.

He told some of the owners that if they didn't pay up, he would kill the dogs.

"If you are a dog lover, losing it is bad enough but to hear it will be killed if you don't pay up means you would be signing its death warrant," Mr Walters said.

He also contacted people who had posted online asking for information relating to vehicles they had had stolen. The scams netted a total of £5,250 over eight months.

Miah, formerly of Wolverhampton Street, Dudley, has been in custody on remand for eight months. He pleaded guilty to fifteen charges of fraud and four of blackmail.

Mr Walters said the first scam was in March last year when Miah contacted a man whose French bulldog puppies had been stolen.

Miah initially asked for £5,000 but dropped the price when he was asked for proof and was paid £300 by money transfer.

He then demanded more and when it was refused, sent a text saying 'where do you want the bodies?,' Mr Walters said.

He also threatened the family and they temporarily left their home after calling police, who traced Miah because he had used his own phone and bank account.

He was bailed but carried on, targeting more than a dozen dog owners from all over the country, including Worcestershire, Hampshire, Cumbria, Oldham and Essex. He demanded money with menaces on four occasions.

In April, 2016, he contacted a woman whose Springer spaniel had been missing for four months. He asked for £400 but she said she didn't have the money and broke down sobbing when he told her the dog would be killed, Mr Walters told the court. He called another woman the same month and told her he had her dog and it would be killed if she didn't pay him £400.

He also contacted people who had posted online messages asking for information on stolen vehicles, including a Mercedes and a Transit van, and said he could return them if he was paid.

In total, he was paid £1,000 from the blackmail and £4,250 from the fraud, Mr Walters said.

Andrew Baker, defending, said Miah was a gambling addict who had conceived the scam after getting into debt.

"It is a nasty and unpleasant offence," he said. " Perhaps it shows the dangers of advertising rewards online. You could be prey to this type of person."

He said Miah, who had one previous conviction for an eBay scam, was always going to be traced because he used his own details.

Judge Daniel Pearce-Higgins said Miah had relied on the fact that dogs were "man's best friend" and the owners would have been in a vulnerable position after losing them.

He gave Miah a total jail sentence of 27 months. A proceeds of crime application process has been started to recover the money.