independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Ecclestone blackmail accused said selling his story to paper would be ‘good work experience’

Tamara Ecclestone arrives at Southwark Crown Court today
Tamara Ecclestone arrives at Southwark Crown Court today

A MAN accused of helping an ex-fiance of socialite Tamara Ecclestone blackmail her for £200,000 (€229k) by claiming he would sell his story to a newspaper told a court today he thought it would be good work experience for his media studies degree.

Prosecutors claim Jakir Uddin, 20, sent an email to Miss Ecclestone's then manager Dana Malmstrom in November 2011 pretending to be co-defendant Derek Rose's official representative.

In it he claimed a tabloid newspaper had offered Rose, 33, who went out with Miss Ecclestone, 28, when she was 17, £200,000 for details of their relationship.

But no newspaper had made such an offer.

Giving evidence today at their trial at London's Southwark Crown Court, Uddin told jurors he had looked up to Rose, who was more than 12 years his senior.

Uddin said Rose had helped with the lifestyle magazine he had set up with a friend while studying at Coventry University.

The older man had introduced him to celebrities and given him advice drawn from his own experience in working in the media industry, Uddin told the court.

"I regarded him as someone with a high status in the media," he said.

Uddin told jurors he had filmed Rose talking about his relationship with the eldest daughter of Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone for a university project.

But Uddin said that when it was rejected by his tutor, Rose suggested to him that they offered it to the newspapers.

"I saw it as a sort of favour for Mr Rose," he said.

"I'd never contacted the papers before and it was an opportunity for me."

Uddin, who denies a charge of blackmail, said: "Mr Rose pointed out to me that the story could be worth a quarter of a million pounds."

Asked by his defence lawyer Ali Bajwa QC if they discussed how much money he himself would get, Uddin told the court: "In general terms maybe a quarter, maybe half. It was just sort of brushed under the carpet."

Asked by Mr Bajwa how he became involved in writing the email to Miss Ecclestone's agent, the softly-spoken student said: "Mr Rose sold me the idea that it would give me experience.

"That it would give me an opportunity to speak with someone who was in a high position in the industry that I wanted to go into."

Uddin denied he meant any harm against Miss Ecclestone, telling the court: "If Tamara was unhappy with anything, I wouldn't have wanted anything to do with it."

Prosecutors claim Rose was the "driving force" behind the plot and planned to keep £150,000 if they were successful.

Both men blame each other over the scheme.

Rose, of Arlington Road, Camden, London, and Uddin, of Old Walsall Road, Birmingham, both deny blackmail.

Rose had already sold one story about Miss Ecclestone to the Mail on Sunday for £10,000 in 2002.

The pair had split up in August of that year, when Rose was then named Jonathan Ketterman.

An email he sent to Miss Ecclestone after they broke up was previously shown to the jury.

The three pages were not read aloud in court but were described by prosecutor William Boyce QC as "extraordinarily offensive".

Asked by Mr Bajwa if he had known about it, Uddin said he had not, but had seen it since being arrested.

Questioned about what he thought of the letter, Uddin said: "Really unpleasant, unattractive.

"You could feel there was some sort of clear anger towards her."

Asked if he would have become involved in the plot if he had known of it, Uddin told the court: "I wouldn't have taken part.

"I didn't want to get in between a volatile sort of relationship."

The court previously heard that Uddin had spoken to Sun journalist Alex West about selling Rose's story to the tabloid and they had been given an offer of £10,000.

Uddin said Rose told him they "should see if Tamara would be interested in purchasing the story or not".

Mr Bajwa said the £200,000 mentioned in the email to Miss Ecclestone's agent was a "grossly exaggerated" figure in comparison.

But Uddin said that when he sent the email - that it is claimed had been drafted by Rose for him to then check for spelling or grammatical mistakes - he had not read it that thoroughly.

He told the court that while his own punctuation and grammar were of a high standard, Rose's were "very poor".

Uddin told the court he had not thought of the implications of the email he had sent.

"I thought we were only inviting Tamara and Ms Malmstrom for a discussion.

"At the time things were moving really quickly and I just didn't have much time to think."

But he added that, since he has had time to think about it, he has realised it was wrong.

"I wouldn't send this to my worst enemy," he said.

"It was very displeasing. Very shameful and very, very stupid of me.

"I wouldn't write with such punctuation and grammatical errors."

Asked by his lawyer why he did not go to police after news of a blackmail plot hit the headlines in December 2011, he said it was because Rose had told him not to and he "panicked".

"In that time in my life I was taking a lot of advice from Mr Rose. I looked up to him quite a lot," he said.

He said Rose had advised him to delete any emails between them concerning the plot but he did not do so as he felt he had done nothing wrong.

Asked how he felt now, Uddin, who is now in the third year of his media production degree, told jurors: "In hindsight and looking back it's the most stupidest thing I have ever done. It was very naive of me.

"I let someone have a lot of influence over me. I didn't think for myself. It was stupid.

"I should have gone to the police on the seventh of December but at all times, in my life I felt that everything I was doing was lawful and proper."

During cross examination from Mr Boyce, Uddin was asked what he thought the purpose of the email he sent was if it was not to blackmail Miss Ecclestone.

Uddin said: "It was simply an invitation to discuss. I didn't think what we would be discussing at that point."

Referring to the "vile" things that Rose wanted to accuse Miss Ecclestone of in the story, Mr Boyce said it was obvious she would not want it published.

He asked the defendant: "The discussion was silence or money, wasn't it? That was the only possible discussion."

"No," Uddin replied. "In my mind I didn't think as far ahead as what the discussion would be about."

"Publishing this, you knew, would tear her to pieces didn't you?" Mr Boyce said.

"No," Uddin replied once again.

The court heard neither defendant has any previous convictions.

The trial was adjourned to 10am tomorrow when Uddin will continue to be cross examined.

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