Gladiators star ‘Shadow’, 60, is jailed for his role in drug-fuelled blackmail plot
A former bodybuilder who played Shadow in the 1990s TV show Gladiators has been jailed for his role in a blackmail plot.
Michael Jefferson King, 60, was caged for six years and three months at Isleworth Crown Court.
King appeared in the first three series of the popular show and became a household name with other stars such as Jet and Wolf.
He is barely recognisable from his 1990s heyday after years of drug abuse and is behind bars after demanding £1,000 from a family for the safe return of a 40-year-old man.
Victim Aaron Ali was held for six-and-a-half hours after a day of smoking drugs at a flat in Acton, west London ‘degenerated rapidly’ on March 22 last year.
A former bodybuilder who played Shadow in the 1990s TV show Gladiators has been jailed for his role in a blackmail plot
Michael Jefferson King, 60, was caged for six years and three months at Isleworth Crown Court
Mr Ali was gagged, a tissue was placed in his mouth to muffle the screams and he was repeatedly punched and kicked.
Giving evidence Mr Ali previously told the court King suggested they kneecap him during his kidnap ordeal.
The victim’s ex-wife Nosheen Zarait and his brother Tariq Ali were contacted and told to pay £1,000 for his safe return, jurors heard.
King and ringleader Simon Batson, 38, admitted two charges of blackmail before the trial began earlier this year.
Batson’s girlfriend Donna Harman, 42, and Otis Noel, 45, were both convicted of two charges of blackmail and one of false imprisonment.
Married couple, Michael and Shila Tyson, both 55, denied and were cleared of aiding and abetting false imprisonment.
They were both granted their travel costs of £120 spent on attending their trial.
Jefferson King, Ulrika Jonsson, and Michael Aherne in ITV’s Gladiator series
Judge Fiona Barrie said the jury, who deliberated for 14 hours and 16 minutes to find majority verdicts, were one of the most ‘diligent’ she has ever encountered.
‘It is apparent to me you have considered this case with great care,’ she said after the verdicts were announced.
After she was told to go to the cells, Harman was in tears as she placed her hand on the glass-walled dock and thanked her barrister.
Prosecutor Keith Hadrill earlier said Harman and Noel were at the flat where Mr Ali was held and assaulted while the blackmail demands were made to his family.
He claimed they later drove Mr Ali to the exchange area in High Wycombe, Berkshire.
Harman phoned Ms Zarait and said: ‘Woman to woman, mother to mother, I’ve been watching this for a while now but this is too much, just go and get the money.’
Former bodybuilder King was recruited as a Gladiator for the original 1992 series
Harman was so concerned about the victim’s sobs being heard that she texted her neighbours in Burlington Gardens, saying ‘the boys’ were getting over excited by ‘the Playstation.’
Jurors were shown two videos recorded on an iPhone of the victim being beaten.
In the clips, Mr Ali is seen lying on a sofa wearing a grey jumper saying, ‘please please please’ and ‘please let me speak to my mum’.
Mr Hadrill said: ‘He is crying out in pain. So what happens is Ms Harman goes to the neighbours, fearing they may be heard.
‘She explains that the noise was ‘boys getting excited over a PlayStation.’
Harman also sent another text saying: ‘Just wanted to say sorry about the noise – over excited men about the game.’
Left to right: Wolf (Michael Van Wijk), Shadow (Jefferson King), host Ulrika Jonsson, Saracen (Mike Lewis), and Cobra (Michael; Wilson) for Season 3 of Gladiators, 1994
Mr Hadrill said the injuries were ‘not serious but serious enough to cause discomfort’
He added: ‘A tissue was placed in his mouth, a gag was used, he was hit with a pole, he was smacked across the bridge of the nose, he was repeatedly kicked.’
King, born in London to Jamaica parents, moved to New York aged 14, where he joined the school American football team.
He later returned to England, where he met his wife and fathered two children before being recruited as a Gladiator for the original 1992 series hosted by Ulrika Jonsson.
In 1995 King was caught snorting cocaine, then axed from the ITV show after testing positive for steroids.
He later turned to heroin and crack cocaine, lost his home and family and served a succession of prison sentences.
In 2009 he went into rehab and stayed clean, revealing in 2011 that he had beaten his addiction and worked at a rehab clinic to help people suffering from drug problems. Last year he was arrested for heroin possession.
Harman, from Acton and Noel, also from Acton, denied but were convicted of two charges of blackmail and one charge of false imprisonment.
The Tysons, from Ealing, denied and were cleared of aiding and abetting false imprisonment.
King and Batson both admitted two counts of blackmail.