A FORMER Wirral councillor who made a drunken death threat to a one-time colleague on the day MP Jo Cox was brutally murdered has been given a suspended jail sentence.

Jim Crabtree appeared at Birkenhead magistrate's court today where he admitted sending a grossly offensive or indecent message to Louise Reecejones, Labour councillor for Pensby and Thingwall, on June 16 last year.

The incident took place on the day Jo Cox - a personal friend of Cllr Reecejones - was shot and stabbed to death outside her constituency surgery in West Yorkshire.

The court heard Crabtree, 62, former Labour councillor for Bidston and St James ward, threatened he would kill Reecejones unless she paid him £19,000.

Police traced the call and Crabtree was arrested along with a friend.

At the time he denied making the call but later changed his plea to guilty.

Wirral Globe:

Happier times: Jim Crabtree, then a councillor, is pictured with 'best small village of the year' trophy which was won by his Bidston ward in 2014

Prosecutor Alan Currums said Cllr Reecejones had received an alert on her iPad that her mobile phone had a voicemail message.

She answered the call, a witheld number, unaware that it was Crabtree on the other end. 

The court heard he told her: "You need to pay back the £19,000 bitch, or I will do what happened to that MP today."

A victim impact statement was read out by Mr Currums on behalf of Cllr Reecejones who did not attend the hearing.

In it she said: "Since this incident took place I have not been the same person I used to be.

"This was a very traumatic time for me.

"I don't sleep now and wake up about ten times a night.

"I was a happy person prior to this incident.

"Now I find myself being much more guarded.

"I have changed my routine and am a lot more alert locking up my place of work.

"Levels of concentration are also very poor. I find myself not wanting to take the children out in case I bump into the defendant."

She added: "I knew Jo Cox as a colleague and friend.

"To do what [Crabtree] did on that day was despicable."

Crabtree, a father-of-four from Hilburn Drive in Bidston, sat in the dock with head down as sentence was passed.

Magistrates gave him a 12-week prison term suspended for a year and imposed a restraining order banning him from contacting Cllr Reecejones.

He must pay £500 costs, £500 compensation and a £115 victim surcharge. 

The court heard Crabtree, who has no previous convictions, had been dropped from the Labour candidate list and left the council at local elections in May 2015.

On the day of the phone call he had been drinking while watching a football match with a friend.

Defending solicitor Quentin Neal said Crabtree, who now works at an airport, was "deeply remorseful."

He added: "My client accepts that word 'despicable.'

"The call took about five to ten seconds and it was totally out of character.

"He has brought shame on himself and those around him.

"A man of good character, he served others as a member of the local authority and with Birkenhead Lions Club.

"He now won't be able to serve on the local authority and will have difficulty working for charity."