Page last updated at 15:02 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 16:02 UK

Aide 'stunned by royal blackmail'

Ian Strachan
Ian Strachan (above) and Sean McGuigan deny blackmail charges

A royal aide was "stunned" to receive a threatening phone call putting a member of the Royal Family at the centre of a gay sex blackmail plot, a court heard.

The woman, Witness B, spoke at the Old Bailey trial of two men accused of trying to extort 50,000 from her boss.

Last August she received a call from a man who talked about the royal.

Ian Strachan, 31, and Sean McGuigan, 41, both of London, deny blackmailing the royal with recordings that suggested he performed a gay sex act.

Describing the telephone call, Witness B said the man talked about the royal, a sex act and another employee who was snorting cocaine.

The witness, who was behind a screen, said: "I was somewhat stunned I have to say.

'Different voices'

"I just said that was interesting. I knew it was not true."

Witness B said she received more than one call over the course of the summer and believed the callers had "different voices". One of the people gave his name as Sean McGuigan, she said.

Ronald Thwaites QC, who is representing Mr McGuigan, asked: "Do you think there is any danger that your perception of this call has changed over the nine months since you received it because you are now in a blackmail trial and you are putting a different complexion on it from the one you put on it that day?"

She replied: "The message was clear. What I was told was it was certainly unpleasant what they were threatening."

That told me that it was fishy because you do not down bid yourself
Lawyer (Witness C)
But the witness added: "I think my mind changed slightly after reading things in the newspapers."

At the time of the call, the royal had been in France and rather than tell him, the woman passed the matter to his friend, a lawyer known as Witness C, the court heard.

The lawyer told the court he was very close to the royal.

He went on to describe a subsequent phone conversation in which Mr Strachan asked for 50,000 in return for the recordings.

"He said 'we have an offer from the press of 75 to 100'. I was absolutely baffled by that...I said 'how much would you request from [the royal] and Ian said 50,000," the lawyer said.

"That told me that it was fishy, the whole business because you do not down bid yourself. It was odd."

The court heard how afterwards the matter was passed to the British authorities and the lawyer played a part in a police sting.

Stringfellows stripper

His role was to go to London and introduce the alleged would-be blackmailers to an undercover policeman pretending to be the lawyer's colleague.

The court also heard that the alleged blackmail attempt included claims that the royal was dared into performing a sex act on a male employee by a stripper from Stringfellows nightclub.

And there were claims that that the royal took drugs.

The allegations were based on eight hours of video and audio recordings of an employee in which he made a number of claims about the royal and other members of his family.

Mr Strachan, is currently based in Fulham, west London, although he is originally from Aberdeen, in Scotland.

Mr McGuigan, is from Battersea, south London.

The trial continues.




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