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Claudia Webbe’s love rival, 59, admits she DID have sex with politician’s boyfriend, court hears 

The woman who MP Claudia Webbe threatened with acid during an 18-month harassment campaign was having sex with the politician’s partner, a court has heard.

The former Labour MP for Leicester East, 57, allegedly branded Michelle Merritt, 59, a ‘s**g’, threatened to throw acid at her and said she would post naked photos of her to her family, in a string of phone calls between September 2018 and April 2020.

Prosecutors say Webbe, who sits as an independent after being expelled from the party, was driven by ‘obsession’ and ‘jealousy’ over her then boyfriend Lester Thomas’s relationship with Ms Merritt.

The MP, who was elected in 2019, is appealing against her harassment conviction and 10-week suspended jail sentence, after she was found guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court last November following a trial. 

She was also ordered to pay £1,000 to Ms Merritt in compensation after District Judge Paul Goldspring said she ‘intended to cause real alarm and distress to her’, and given 200 hours of unpaid work.

Former Labour MP for Leicester East Claudia Webbe allegedly branded Michelle Merritt a ‘s**g’, threatened to throw acid at her and said she would post naked photos of her to her family. Pictured, Webbe outside Southwark Crown Court today

Southwark Crown Court heard Ms Merritt’s phone has been examined by police and downloaded since the trial, revealing sexual messages between her and Mr Thomas, a consultant at Crossrail, football coach, and scout for Chelsea FC.

He had dated Ms Merritt some 15 years ago, but magistrates did not hear that Ms Merritt was still having sex with Thomas in a ‘friends with benefits relationship.’ 

Webbe, a former adviser to the National Police Chiefs Council on firearms, said she split up with Mr Thomas in March this year after learning of the messages.

‘I had no idea about the relationship between Michelle Merritt and Lester Thomas, that this relationship had been going on throughout the entire time of my relationship with Lester,’ she said.

‘Therefore I was shocked and could not deal with that.’

The court heard that Mr Thomas bought Ms Merritt a £120 sex toy that ‘never got used’ and frequently sent her pornography.

In June 2019, Ms Merritt texted Mr Thomas about a ‘new sex toy’ she had ordered, the court heard. 

Helen Law, representing Webbe, suggested a ‘glaring omission’ in executive assistant Ms Merritt’s accounts in police witness statements and evidence in court was that ‘you and he were having sex’.

Giving evidence from behind a screen, Ms Merritt admitted having sex with Mr Thomas, who she described as a ‘narcissist who likes attention’, between March 2017 and July 2020.

‘Mr Thomas and I talked about sex a lot,’ she said. ‘Other people would talk about fashion, we would talk about sex.

‘May I also add I’m single, not him, and I have done nothing illegal.’

Webbe's boyfriend Lester Thomas dated Ms Merritt some 15 years ago. Detail about them having sex for more than two years was left out of the initial trial at Westminster Magistrates. Pictured, Webbe and her ex, Mr Thomas arriving at Westminster Magistrates Court on November 4, 2021

Webbe’s boyfriend Lester Thomas dated Ms Merritt some 15 years ago. Detail about them having sex for more than two years was left out of the initial trial at Westminster Magistrates. Pictured, Webbe and her ex, Mr Thomas arriving at Westminster Magistrates Court on November 4, 2021

Ms Law suggested Ms Merritt’s evidence at Webbe’s trial that Mr Thomas was just a ‘good friend’ could have been ‘misleading to the court’, and said: ‘Your phone download showed you had lied.’

The complainant said: ‘I had not lied about having sex with Mr Thomas. No-one asked me in the magistrates’ court.

‘The basis of this whole thing is not based on my sex with Mr Thomas, it is based on being threatened and being harassed by Ms Webbe.’

At the appeal, Ms Merritt said that there was an ‘occasional’ sexual side to their relationship.

‘It was more often a friendship, going to the cinema, theatre, for lunch…more than sex,’ she added.

Ms Merritt firmly denied being in a ‘relationship’ with Mr Thomas, defining them as friends who ‘occasionally’ had sex. 

Ms Law alleged that Ms Merritt wanted Mr Thomas to leave his then-girlfriend for her.

This was vehemently denied.

‘I’m sorry I never wanted to have a relationship with Mr Thomas and I will say that again until I’m blue in the face,’ Ms Merritt said.

The court heard the harassment campaign began with silent phone calls in September 2018 then ‘escalated’ on March 31, Mother’s Day, the following year when Webbe questioned why Ms Merritt was in touch with her boyfriend.

Webbe, a former adviser to the National Police Chiefs Council on firearms, said she split up with Mr Thomas in March this year after learning of the messages. Pictured, the former couple leaving Westminster Magistrates Court on November 4, 2021

Webbe, a former adviser to the National Police Chiefs Council on firearms, said she split up with Mr Thomas in March this year after learning of the messages. Pictured, the former couple leaving Westminster Magistrates Court on November 4, 2021

Ms Merritt said Webbe told her: ‘Friends don’t send friends pictures of their t*ts and p***y. You’re a s**g and should be acid.’

The court heard she called police to report, ‘I have been threatened by a public figure with acid’, but received 17 further phone calls lasting 14 seconds or less from Webbe after the MP was warned to stop contacting her.

This phone call was not recorded but a conversation in April 2020 between Webbe and Ms Merritt was taped in which Webbe yells at the latter woman  saying: ‘I have seen all of your naked pictures. Get out of my relationship otherwise I will tell your whole family and show them all of your pictures.’

Ms Law said that her client did not use any of the same language in the recorded call as in the unrecorded Mother’s Day call.

‘When you gave your account to the police, “t*ts, p***y, sl*g, acid”, were you trying to imagine the kind of words a black woman might use when jealous and angry at her lover?’

Ms Merritt replied: ‘No. The words I have typed here are the words that I heard, the words that Ms Webbe said to me in that conversation in March on Mother’s Day 2019.’

‘I am going to suggest to you that that call simply did not happen,’ the barrister continued.

The witness sighed in reply. 

Ms Law suggested Ms Merritt's evidence at Webbe's trial that Mr Thomas was just a 'good friend' could have been 'misleading to the court'. Pictured, Webbe outside Southwark Crown Court today

Ms Law suggested Ms Merritt’s evidence at Webbe’s trial that Mr Thomas was just a ‘good friend’ could have been ‘misleading to the court’. Pictured, Webbe outside Southwark Crown Court today

Webbe claims she sometimes called Ms Merritt’s phone to try to contact her boyfriend but insists the Mother’s Day call did not happen and that the recorded conversation was taken out of context in the course of a row with Mr Thomas.

Ms Law suggested to Ms Merritt: ‘You were nigh-on obsessed with Ms Webbe… and you were prepared to do things to her to try to get even or get revenge or because you were jealous of Ms Webbe.’

Ms Merritt replied: ‘No, I would say Ms Webbe was obsessed with me.’

Ms Law said: ‘You were prepared to lie to get what you want out of this situation, which is for Claudia Webbe to be humiliated.’

Ms Merritt said: ‘No, all I wanted was the calls to stop, the threats to stop.’

Webbe entered the Commons in December 2019, winning the seat formerly held by Keith Vaz, the Labour veteran who retired from Parliament in the wake of a scandal.

She was a councillor in Islington between 2010 and 2018 and was a member of Labour’s ruling National Executive Committee.

Earlier in her career, she was a political adviser to the then-London mayor Ken Livingstone.

Labour has previously said the party will push for a recall petition to force a by-election if Webbe does not quit the Commons, but will have to wait until the outcome of the appeal. 

Webbe, of Islington, London, denied but was convicted of one count of harassment, between 1 September 2018 and 26 April 2020.

The appeal, which is being heard by Judge Deborah Taylor and two magistrates, continues.


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