First photos of Gladiators star Shadow’s 3 accomplices who ‘tortured’ drug-user in Ealing flat

Police have released photos of the gaunt looking former ITV Gladiators star and his three accomplices who were involved in a horrifying blackmail plot where a drug user was tortured over a £600 debt.

Michael Jefferson King, 60, was a popular star on the hit ITV show and played the role of ‘Shadow’ until he was axed in 1995 after being caught snorting cocaine and testing positive for steroids.

King plus Simon Batson, 39, Donna Harman, 41 and Otis Noel, 45, were all jailed on Friday (August 27) for the roles they played in a blackmail plot.

King, who was said to have been addicted to heroin and crack cocaine at the time of the incident in March 2020, was living at a flat in Birkbeck Grove, in the Acton area of Ealing, West London, that had become a “safe haven” for people to take drugs in.

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King was jailed for 6 years and 3 months

Batson and Harman also lived in Acton in a flat in Burlington Gardens and Noel also lived in Ealing on Western Avenue.

Isleworth Crown Court heard on Friday (August 27) how the victim, Aaron Ali, 40, was held against his will at the Burlington Gardens home on March 22 last year.

The group of four believed he had incurred a £600 drugs debt and began to make threats to his life and demands for repayment. The victim was assaulted and received bruising to his body and face.

Judge Fiona Barrie said: “Mr Ali attended the home of Mr Batson and Ms Harman to share drugs and all four of the defendants were present at the address eventually.

“He said initially everything was fine, but when the drugs ran out the atmosphere changed. He was told to borrow money from his wife to buy more drugs but he refused.

“Then he said the mood became ugly. Within a very short space of time a plan was hatched to extort money from Mr Ali and his family.

“He described during the trial how he was subjected to a sustained and brutal attack which continued over several hours from approximately midday to 9pm that evening. He said he was constantly tortured by the group.”

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Simon Batson was sentenced to six years and nine months

The judge added that “persistent and relentless” threats were made towards Aaron’s wife and brother to pay £1,000 for his safe return.

Members of the group attacked Mr Ali throughout the day including hitting his knuckles with a metal pole, beating him with a wooden stick and kicking and punching him.

A plastic bag was put on his head while he was beaten and a sock and exercise band were used as a gag to “stifle his screams”, the judge said.

Both heard him being threatened as he pleaded for help in the background and videos were sent showing the torture.

Prosecutor Keith Hadrill said King also threatened to cut off the man’s ears and fingers.

Mr Hadrill said: “When Mr Ali attempted to escape, he was brought down by the three defendants and Mr King was instructing them to get a hammer so they could break his legs so he could not escape.”

His family eventually agreed to pay the money and Mr Ali was released, it was said.

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Donna Harman was sentenced to four years

Judge Barrie told the court: “A neighbour described hearing a bad scream like something from a Hollywood movie. The demand videos to his wife and brother were brutal. They were violent and they were distressing.

“The sending of the videos can only have been done to cause psychological harm to the recipients. Mr Ali said he thought he was going to die. He said he has flashbacks, troubling sleeping and trust issues as some of those involved, he considered to be his friends.

“He remains mentally scarred by what happened to him and treated as less than a human.

“His wife said the demand videos are something she can never forget. She also says she can never forget the events of that day and she has been left feeling anxious, sometimes depressed and haunted by the videos that give her sleepless nights.”

Stella Harris, defending, King’s previous convictions were mostly for theft to support his addiction to Class A drugs, which began when the Londoner was living in The Bronx in New York during the 80s.

Ms Harris said: “He became an athlete and had some success playing American football in college and had trials at that time.

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Noel Otis was jailed for 7 years and 6 months

“Unfortunately, at that moment in that part of the country there was an epidemic of crack cocaine use and that’s something he encountered as a teenager and that has led very regrettably to a lifelong dependence on drugs.

“He came back to this country, he was then a professional bodybuilder all the while still having these issues – periods of abstinence, periods of success. When things went wrong, he would turn to drugs.”

The court heard King has 20 convictions for 39 offences.

It was said King’s mother recently died aged 93, which has been an “additional punishment” and he decided not to attend her funeral because of “the shame” of seeing his wider family.

Judge Barrie told King: “It was Mr Ali’s evidence all three males played a role in attacking him and preventing him from leaving.

“I take into account your acceptance of responsibility and the role you played in this offending. I take into account your entrenched drug addiction from your teenage years.”

The group were sentenced as follows:

  • Simon Batson was sentenced to six years and nine months after pleading guilty to two counts of blackmail.
  • Michael King was sentenced to six years and three months after pleading guilty to two counts of blackmail.
  • Donna Harman was sentenced to four years after being found guilty of false imprisonment and two counts of blackmail.
  • Otis Noel to seven years and six months after being found guilty of false imprisonment and two counts of blackmail.

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Detective Constable Glenn Peach, of the Met’s Flying Squad, said: “The fear and panic the victim and his family went through at the hands of these attackers should not be underestimated. The false imprisonment, assault and severe threats will stay with those affected for a long time.

“At the very least, we hope the victim and his family will take some comfort in the fact that these offenders have been brought to justice. We are glad that the sentences handed out reflect the severity and inexcusable nature of the crimes that took place.”

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