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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May, 2005, 15:37 GMT 16:37 UK
Beckham 'kidnap' man loses case
Victoria and David Beckham
A News of the World story in November 2002 named Mr Turcu
A man who was accused of being involved in a plot to kidnap Victoria Beckham has lost his High Court damages action.

Alin Turcu, 24, whose real name is Bogdan Maris, claimed he was libelled by a News of the World story in November 2002 in which he was named.

The paper claimed it foiled a plot to kidnap Mrs Beckham and her two sons. A subsequent trial collapsed in 2003.

The judge said the "sting" of the paper's claims was mostly justified and told Mr Turcu to pay the paper's costs.

Mr Justice Eady, who heard the case without a jury, refused Mr Turcu permission to appeal and ordered him to pay 100,000 of the 400,000 costs incurred by News Group Newspapers on account within 28 days.

Trial collapse

The original report followed an undercover operation by Mazher Mahmood, the newspaper's investigations editor.

The front page story was followed up by a story in the Sun, with both stories featuring photographs of Mr Turcu as well as his pseudonym.

It was alleged that an international terror gang intended to kill Mrs Beckham if husband David failed to meet a 5m ransom demand.

Mr Turcu was arrested the day after the allegations emerged and held on remand for eight months.

The allegations against the claimant are...substantially, if not wholly, accurate
Mr Justice Eady

However, he returned to his native Romania after a June 2003 trial collapsed.

News Group Newspapers had denied libel and said the articles were true or substantially so.

The judge said there was unchallenged evidence that Mr Turcu - whose application for political asylum in England was based on several lies - was a petty criminal with charges or convictions in Romania, Germany, Italy and England.

He concluded that there was not a "gang" in any formal sense but a group of loose associates who were prepared to take part in any criminal activity that suited them.

There was no plot to kidnap the Beckham children, a kidnap was not imminent and Mr Turcu was not a major player with a surveillance role, as the articles portrayed.

'Clear vindication'

But it was clear that Turcu was willing to participate in criminal activities and apparently genuine discussions about kidnapping Victoria Beckham, which showed he was a close associate, the judge added.

Mr Justice Eady said the "sting" of the allegations was substantially made out through Mr Mahmood's evidence and the content of recorded conversations.

He said: "I believe that most reasonable onlookers would think that sufficient to support the sting of the libel.

"The allegations against the claimant are therefore substantially, if not wholly, accurate."

A statement issued on behalf of News Group described the judgement as a "clear vindication of the News of the World's investigation".




SEE ALSO:
The Beckhams in the spotlight
20 Feb 05 |  Entertainment
Brand it like Beckham
03 Dec 04 |  UK


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