Page last updated at 17:48 GMT, Wednesday, 10 December 2008

'Blackmail' officer breaks down

E-fits of the two men, based on PC Johal's description
E-fits were made up based on PC Johal's descriptions

A policeman accused of blackmailing paedophiles broke down as he told a court how his family had been threatened by a criminal.

Pc Amerdeep Singh Johal, 29, from Ilford, east London, denies 12 counts of blackmail and one charge of misconduct in public office.

He says he sent blackmail letters demanding money to sex offenders and a drug dealer in July 2007 under duress.

In the witness box, Pc Johal broke down as he spoke about the threats.

He said two men - both Indian - had approached him and claimed to represent a convicted kidnapper, Baljit Singh Bhandal, who had a grudge against the officer. Over the next nine months they threatened his family and demanded money.

He said at one point he saw them with a gun and they told him they knew where his wife worked and where his mother worshipped.

His barrister Oliver Blunt asked him: "You accept that you were responsible for sending out the blackmail demand letters?"

It was the only way I had to protect my family. It was the only option
PC Amerdeep Singh Johal

"Yes, sir," he replied.

"Why?" asked Mr Blunt.

Pc Johal said: "It was the only way I had to protect my family. It was the only option."

Mr Blunt asked: "Did you genuinely believe you and your family were at risk?"

"Yes, sir," he replied.

Pc Johal said the two men who were intimidating him were both Indian, one was bald and the other was a Sikh with a turban and beard. He said they drove around in a black Bentley.

The jury was shown e-fits of the two men which he had helped to draw up, and he said he put up posters seeking information about the men all across the borough of Redbridge, east London.

Pc Johal wept as he recounted the men showing him a photo of himself and his three-year-old son, and said: "how sweet is that?".

He was asked by his barrister why he had not mentioned the threats he was coming under to his wife Jaswinder or any of his colleagues at the Metropolitan Police.

He said he did not want to worry his wife and had the impression Bhandal was a wealthy and dangerous individual with contacts in the police, and he feared his family could not be protected by the force.

Cross examining him, prosecutor David Markham said: "If there is a grain of truth in what you have been telling the jury you must have been beyond despair?"

"Yes sir," he replied.

Mr Markham repeatedly questioned him about how he was supposed to give the money to the two men, given that he did not have a contact number for them.

"They said they told me they would be back and I knew they would," he replied.

The trial continues.

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