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Last Updated: Monday, 2 June, 2003, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Man 'blackmailed funeral firm'
A journalist blackmailed a funeral firm by threatening to publish claims more than one person was buried in the same grave, a court has heard.

Freelance reporter Mark Williams-Thomas demanded money from the chief executive of Dignity Funerals, Chichester Crown Court was told.

Miss Henrietta Padget, prosecuting, told the jury that at least three newspapers and a TV station were said by Mr Williams-Thomas to have been ready to run the story.

He claimed a former Dignity employee had told him bodies had been buried "inappropriately" at a cemetery in Leatherhead, Surrey.

Blackmail claim

Mr Williams-Thomas, of Beech Lane, Hindhead, Surrey, denies a charge of blackmail.

The court was told he had arranged to meet the chief executive of Dignity, Peter Hindley, at the Gatwick Hilton in January 2002.

"Mr Thomas told Mr Hindley that the story was ready to go and that newspapers and TV were interested," she said.

"He said he was a businessman trying to sell a story, and that if Mr Hindley bought the story that would be the end of the matter.

"He said if they bought it he would take care of it."

Miss Padget said the defendant's demands added up to blackmail.

The trial continues.

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