Sunday 17 December 2017

'Cowboy' nightclub owner kidnapped by three lapdancers during Cheltenham festival, court hears

Cheltenham Racecourse
Cheltenham Racecourse

Claire Hayhurst

A nightclub boss allegedly kidnapped by three lapdancers and their manager ran his premises like a "cowboy", a court heard.

Curtis Woodman claims the women, wearing "miniskirts, stilettos and Daisy Duke shorts", and two men surrounded him and demanded £42,000.

The money is said to have been wages owed to the women for their work at a pop-up nightclub he ran during the Cheltenham Festival in March 2012.

Bristol Crown Court heard Mr Woodman was kidnapped, robbed of £60 cash and his £4,650 Breitling watch and assaulted during the two-hour incident on September 3 2012.

Manager Charlotte Devaney, 34, and lapdancers Mandy Cool, 29, Stephanie Pye, 31, and Rachel Goodchild, 24, deny kidnapping Mr Woodman.

Brothers Robert Morris, 27, and Alexander Morris, 23, who accompanied the women, deny charges of robbery and kidnap.

Mr Woodman's business partner, bodybuilder Deano Jouni, told a jury the pop-up venture, at the Embassy Club in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, had been set up correctly.

He said the nightclub had been shut down by police on its third night, a Wednesday, when the women broke contracts agreeing to wear bikinis and nipple tassels at all times.

"The girls were very difficult to please on the nights," Mr Jouni said. "On the Wednesday Curtis and I decided that the girls wouldn't be given the credit and commissions.

"The very next day, the Thursday, the girls began asking for money. We told them they would not be getting any.

"The fact that the girls didn't comply is why we were closed down. It was a non-nude bikini bar.

"To be honest it was such an ordeal. It was a nightmare doing the whole entire event."

In cross-examination by Khalid Missouri, for Robert Morris, Mr Jouni denied that he and Mr Woodman were "cowboys" and said they had worked with solicitors, police and the local council.

"You and Mr Woodman are a couple of cowboys," Mr Missouri said. "You were not running a proper establishment. You were trying to skirt round the rules and blame the girls."

Mr Jouni replied: "Are you saying that the police were cowboys and the council too?"

Mr Jouni, who has 10 years experience in the lapdancing industry, told how customers could pay £20 for a dance in the club's main area.

A dance in the club's upstairs VIP area - where black curtains formed cubicles for customers and the girls - cost from £200 for 20 minutes.

"What did you get in the VIP area for £180 more than you could get downstairs?" Mr Missouri asked.

"Nothing more," Mr Jouni replied. "It is a second floor with a different name."

Mr Jouni told the jury both he and Mr Woodman had made money from the venture and split a £40,000 bill spent by one customer, named only as Steve, in one night.

The court heard the money was transferred into Mr Woodman's bank account, with £20,000 later paid into Mr Jouni's account.

"You hadn't danced or worked for the £40,000 that was paid out?" Garry Green, representing Devaney, asked. "Yet you kept a large amount for your own purposes?"

Mr Jouni replied: "Yes."

The women and brothers are alleged to have driven in two BMWs to Mr Woodman's work premises in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, at around 4pm on September 3 2013.

Mr Woodman previously told the jury how he was "surrounded" by the group before being bundled into one of the vehicles and driven off.

He claims Alexander Morris robbed him of his Breitling Avenger Skyland watch, £60 of cash and Robert Morris kicked and punched him to the face during the incident.

It is also alleged that Mr Woodman was forced to transfer £4,800 into Devaney's bank account while in the vehicle.

Mr Jouni, who asked for a break in proceedings as he was feeling unwell, confirmed he had called police after receiving phone calls from Mr Woodman during the incident.

The jury also heard evidence from Piers Stucken, who was called by Mr Jouni at around 5pm on September 3.

"He said to me 'I think something is happening, I think Curtis got kidnapped'," Mr Stucken told the jury.

Mr Stucken, an engineer, said he drove to Cheltenham to try to locate Mr Woodman and noticed two BMWs parked across the road, causing a traffic jam.

The jury heard Mr Stucken parked in a nearby car park so he had a clear view of the vehicles and told Mr Jouni to inform police of their location.

"I then saw Curtis walking down the road with his face all smashed in," Mr Stucken told the jury. "He said he got bundled into a car, kidnapped and robbed."

Alexander Morris, from Southampton, has admitted carrying a bladed article, namely a Stanley knife, on September 3 2012, the day of the alleged kidnap.

He denies a charge of robbery, along with Robert Morris, also from Southampton, concerning Mr Woodman's Breitling watch.

The brothers are also charged with robbery, concerning £60 Mr Woodman gave them from his pocket before his release. They deny the charge.

Devaney, from London; Pye, from Sutton Coldfield; Cool, of Southampton; and Goodchild, of Southampton, each deny a charge of kidnap on September 3 2012.

The trial, in front of judge Geoffrey Mercer and expected to last up to three weeks, continues.

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