Gladiator’s Michael Jefferson King ‘threatened to kneecap a man with hammer’

A bodybuilder who played 'Shadow' in TV's Gladiators threatened to kneecap a man with a hammer as part of a blackmail plot.

Victim Aaron Ali, 40, was allegedly held by a gang, which included Michael Jefferson King, at a flat in Acton, west London in March of last year because one of his friends owed them money.

Isleworth Crown Court heard the former Gladiator and Simon Batson, 38, have both admitted two charges of blackmail and will be sentenced later.

Batson's girlfriend Donna Harman, 42, Otis Noel, 45, along with Michael Tyson, 55, and wife Shila, 55, are currently on trial and deny charges including false imprisonment, blackmail and aiding and abetting false imprisonment.

Jurors heard how the alleged victim's wife, mother and brother Tariq Ali were contacted and told to pay £1,000 for his safe return.

While King, Batson, Harman and Noel were allegedly at the flat where Mr Ali was held and assaulted, the Tysons are said to have driven him to the exchange area in High Wycombe, Berks.

In a police interview played to jurors, Mr Ali said Batson was "80% in charge" of the blackmail plot, while Noel was "taking instructions" and King was "making suggestions" including getting a hammer to kneecap him.

He told an officer: "Jefferson I have known for a number of years. From the area I used to see him around. As a child I used to watch Gladiators.

"Jefferson's flat was kind of a social gathering place. Rather than using the street it was like a safe haven, everyone would just go there."

Mr Ali said he had been sitting in a park with a friend, who is said to have owed money to the defendants, and who suddenly ran away.

He said: "I was rolling a cigarette. My full attention isn't on my surroundings, it was on my hands. Someone put their hand on my shoulder.

"There were two guys behind me and it just happened so quick, I just didn't know what was going on until they explained.

"I felt the tip of something sharp in my back. I know the person who had the knife was Simon. When we got back to the flat he had a knife in his hand. He was waving that around."

He said a group of five men, which included King, Batson and Noel, explained to him that he was "part of the debt" that was owed to them.

Mr Ali said: "I was petrified. I had a feeling the people [my friend] were involved with were dangerous. Once we got to the flat they kept repeating to not make any sudden movements and saying 'we need this debt paid'.

"I tried pleading with them and saying I don't see why I should pay, and they just kept demanding 'someone needs to pay and you are friends with him, we believe you are part of the debt'."

He said members of the group then began attacking him with a metal pole, kicking and punching him until he told them to call his wife.

Jurors heard the group phoned Mr Ali's wife, who told them she was a single mother and could not afford to pay them the £1,000 ransom.

Mr Ali said: "When she refused that's when they started attacking me so she could hear me screaming, pleading for help. They did that deliberately.

"I pleaded with them 'please don't hurt me'. She was saying 'don't hurt him, what do you guys want?'.

"They made a video of me being kicked and punched in the face. They were laughing. They were saying you can't see the blood, let's do it again. I think they did three videos."

Mr Ali said at one point Harmon came into the room and asked the men if they wanted a cheese and pickle sandwich.

He said: "They are having a cheese and pickle sandwich while I'm sitting there bleeding.

"I'm not allowed to go to the toilet or even breathe because I had a plastic bag over my head, but they are sitting there eating a sandwich. I was frightened, thinking will I see my children again, what have I done to deserve this?'"

He said when the gang resumed attacking him he could "feel his bones creaking".

It was at this point King suggested they kneecap him, Mr Ali said.

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He told officers: "Jefferson actually had at one point suggested they get a hammer and break my kneecaps. He said 'why don't we get that flat-headed hammer and break his kneecaps? We will break his kneecaps to let you know we are serious and you won't run away'."

Mr Ali said he did not get kneecapped but had to hold out his hands while they were hit by a pole.

He said: "I was in so much pain."

Mr Ali said he believes King punched him "about three or four" times and wasn't "attacking him as much as the others".

Harman, of Burlington Gardens, Acton, Noel of Wendover Court, Acton, deny false imprisonment and two counts of blackmail.

The Tysons, of Grafton Road, Ealing, deny aiding and abetting false imprisonment.

King and Batson have both admitted two counts of blackmail.

The trial continues.

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