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Tuesday, April 27, 1999 Published at 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK


Actor 'duped into selling drugs'

John Alford says he was duped by the reporter

An undercover journalist sent a scantily clad prostitute to London's Burning actor John Alford's home to trick the star into selling drugs, a court has heard.

Mr Alford, who is defending himself on drugs charges in court, told Snaresbrook Crown Court in London the reporter "pressurised and incited" him to commit an offence.

He denies one charge of supplying 2.037g of cocaine and one of supplying 11.9g of cannabis resin in August 1997. He also pleads not guilty to offering to supply a further cache of cocaine.

Mazher Mahmood, investigative editor at The News of the World newspaper, secretly filmed the actor allegedly handing over cocaine and cannabis in a suite at the Savoy Hotel in London. He rejects the allegations of "incitement".

Reporter posed as Arab

After the story broke last year in the newspaper, Mr Alford was sacked from his £50,000-a-year role in the ITV television drama, based on the lives of a team of firemen.

The court has heard that Mr Mahmood posed as an Arabian prince who wanted the actor to join a celebrity line-up at a nightclub opening in Dubai.

Mr Mahmood told the actor an unnamed acquaintance said Mr Alford supplied drugs at parties.

Martin Hicks, for the prosecution, said Mr Alford was taken to the Savoy in a Rolls Royce, which he later used to visit north London to buy cocaine and cannabis worth £300.

'Money offered'

Mr Mahmood said the woman he sent to see Mr Alford was not a prostitute, and was not scantily dressed in a mini-skirt, as was claimed.

The woman had said that she and her boyfriend had "purchased drugs from you in the past", and had been part of the actor's "circle", Mr Mahmood added.

He also said Mr Alford had later visited the woman, "offering her money to give evidence in this trial". This allegation was denied by the actor.

Mr Alford, who is charged under his real name John Shannon, was on his fourth day of cross-examining Mr Mahmood.

Previous investigations

The journalist denied putting pressure on Mr Alford to supply drugs. But the actor's response was to accuse him of lying.

"I can sleep at night, how can you?" he added.

Mr Mahmood's investigations have resulted in 96 criminal convictions, and he said he "has been praised by Home Secretary Jack Straw".

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