Page last updated at 12:29 GMT, Wednesday, 16 April 2008 13:29 UK

Blackmail case royal 'took drugs'

A royal targeted in an alleged gay sex blackmail plot was said to have taken drugs, a court has heard.

The claim was made by Ian Strachan as he tried to sell the story to a tabloid journalist, it is alleged.

The Old Bailey was told that after failing to get the story published, Mr Strachan and Sean McGuigan demanded £50,000 from the unnamed royal.

Mr Strachan, 31, of Fulham, and Mr McGuigan, 41, of Battersea, both London, deny blackmail charges.

The court heard the two men blackmailed the royal using a sound recording containing claims he had performed a gay sex act on an employee - called Witness D.

'Keeping story alive'

News of the World reporter James Weatherup has told the Old Bailey he decided not to publish the story as the royal - called Witness A - was "not significant enough."

Mr Weatherup said the story centred on the behaviour of D when he was initially approached by Mr Strachan about the story.

He said: "As the story developed we became more interested in A because Ian had said that A took drugs.

"It's in the tapes. There is an allegation of taking drugs. We'd be interested in proving that A took drugs. We knew that D took drugs because it was on the tape."

Cross-examined by Jerome Lynch QC, for Strachan, Mr Weatherup denied he was "keeping the story alive" by staying in touch with the defendant after interest had faded.

Mr Weatherup said: "He had delivered what he promised to deliver. He was clearly connected in the social circles and he may have been able to provide stories in the future.

"There was no reason to fall out with him because we didn't want the story."

'Cavorting around'

In an unpublished draft of the gay sex story Mr Weatherup described Witness D as "flamboyant" and told the jury it would be fair to describe him as "camp".

Ronald Thwaites QC, defending McGuigan, asked the journalist: "Would you say camp as that of John Inman in Are You Being Served? In that show, was that how he was cavorting himself around?

"He is hardly someone who sounds irresistible."

Mr Weatherup said: "I thought he was quite entertaining."

D was also well-placed, a "mine of information and a name-dropper" plus he also had some "funny stories", Mr Weatherup added.

Mr Thwaites put it to the reporter that Witness D was a "habitual liar" and a "boastful braggart".

But Mr Weatherup said he believed D's claim the sex act had taken place as he had repeated it on a number of occasions.

He said: "I did not get the impression that D had to lie about anything. He was successful, had a good job, earning an OK amount of money and living life to the full."

The trial continues.



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