Super-injunction footballer 'blackmailed' over affair
A premiership footballer who has taken out a gagging order over his alleged affair with a Big Brother contestant sought the injunction after she tried to blackmail him for £100,000, a court heard today.
The player, who cannot be named, said Imogen Thomas had told him she "needed" the money and was being tracked by journalists.
He said he had reluctantly met the Welsh reality contestant at two different hotels to discuss the money, but began to "smell a rat" and feared he had been set up.
Details of the reasons behind the injunction banning the naming of the footballer, who is married with children, emerged at the British High Court today.
Mr Justice Eady published his full decision to grant the initial injunction on April 14 which was upheld on April 20 and is now being challenged by the media.
Miss Thomas, who was at court and has always denied trying to sell her story about the alleged affair, said she was "stunned" by the judge’s ruling.
"I have read the judgement and I am stunned by how I am portrayed," she said.
"Again, my name and reputation are being trashed while the man I had a relationship with is able to hide
"What is more, I cannot even defend myself because I have been gagged. Where is the fairness in this? What about my reputation?
"If this is the way privacy injunctions are supposed to work, then there is something seriously wrong with the law."
In his judgement, Mr Justice Eady said the footballer claimed he had first met Miss Thomas in September 2010, and again in November and December.
Miss Thomas, 28, claimed that the pair had had a relationship for six months.
In his witness statement to the court, the footballer said Miss Thomas had contacted him in March this year "which led him to conclude that she was at that stage thinking of selling her story, such as it was".
She asked the sportsman for £50,000 (€57,000), the court heard.
Mr Justice Eady said: "It was against this background that he agreed (he says with some reluctance) to meet her in a hotel where he was staying in early April of this year in order to discuss her demands.
"Although he had no wish to meet, he eventually agreed because he was concerned that she would go to the newspapers if he refused."
According to the footballer, they met for no more than 30 minutes and he gave her a signed football shirt, but refused to pay the money.
Mr Justice Eady said Miss Thomas then asked to meet him again a few days later in another hotel, and he gave her some football tickets.
In his judgement, the judge said: "It now seems that the claimant may well have been ‘set up’ so that photographs could be taken of Miss Thomas going to one or other, or both, of the hotels.
"Although the position is not yet by any means clear, the evidence before me on April 14 appeared to suggest that Miss Thomas had arranged the hotel rendezvous in collaboration with photographers and or journalists.
"He first began to ‘smell a rat’ when she told him at the first April meeting, perhaps feigning innocence, that she had been followed and recognised when she visited the first hotel."
On April 12, the footballer contacted Miss Thomas to say he did not want any further contact, but then changed his mind and offered her some money "after all", the court was told.
"By this time, however, she made it clear that she was looking for £100,000 (€114,000). She later texted him to say that there was a journalist outside her house.
"The evidence before the court at that point, therefore, appeared strongly to suggest that the claimant was being blackmailed (although that is not how he put it himself).
"I hasten to add, as is obvious, that I cannot come to any final conclusion about it at this stage."