Club boss 'lied about being kidnapped by lapdancers'

Daily Echo: Rachel Goodchild Rachel Goodchild

A nightclub boss ''lied'' about being kidnapped by lapdancers to escape paying them more than £42,000 in wages, their manager has told a court.

Charlotte Devaney, 34, called claims that Curtis Woodman, 34, had been surrounded and bundled into a car ''ridiculous'' and ''one million per cent untrue''.

Bristol Crown Court heard Devaney, three lap dancers - dressed in miniskirts and Daisy Duke shorts - and two brothers drove to meet Mr Woodman on September 3, 2012.

Mr Woodman had refused to pay the women around £42,000 earned when they worked at a pop-up nightclub he ran during the Cheltenham Festival in March 2012.

He insists the women forfeited the cash by stripping off at the Embassy Club, which was against their contracts and the licence - causing it to be closed down.

But Devaney told a jury Mr Woodman had been content for the 60 girls she recruited for the event to lap dance wearing nipple tassels and thongs.

''There was lap dancing with nipple tassels,'' Devaney said. ''Neither Curtis or Deano Jouni, Mr Woodman's business partner did anything to stop that.''

Devaney told the court how on the club's second night, a Tuesday, one customer spent £42,000 on lap dancing.

''Steve was very drunk, he was in the club for approximately six hours,'' Devaney said. ''He had several girls around him and he was spending money on all of them.

''Curtis was very happy for Steve to be spending his money.''

The court heard Mr Woodman had failed to secure a sexual entertainment licence for the club and had a standard licence instead - allowing lap dancing for one night only.

But when licencing officers attended on the second night, they found women breaching the licence and the night was turned into a fully nude event.

Devaney, who was paid a commission for recruiting the women, said: ''The girls were told to buy bikinis for the Wednesday night but at no time did Deano or Curtis tell them to put clothes on.

''It was bikinis on the Wednesday instead of nipple tassels and thongs.''

Devaney said authorities shut the club at 9pm on the Wednesday night, after officers found rules were still being breached.

She claimed Mr Woodman and Mr Jouni quickly ''vanished'' and she was left dealing with unpaid staff members, including promo girls, lapdancers and waitresses.

After months of calling both men and receiving ''excuses'', Devaney said she decided to go and visit them in Cheltenham to sort out the outstanding amount.

''There were 19 girls all together that were owed money,'' Devaney said. ''I invited all 19 girls to come up there to speak to Curtis about the money. It was to speak to him and find out some answers.

''It was basically just a bunch of angry women with their rolling pins out. We didn't know what was waiting for us in Cheltenham, we were scared.''

Devaney said one of the girls, Mandy Cool, brought her boyfriend, Robert Morris, 27, and his brother, Alex Morris, 23, for their ''protection''.

The court heard Devaney was wearing small shorts, a low cup top and high heeled sandals when she drove down to meet Mr Woodman.

Garry Green, representing Devaney, asked: ''In that attire were you planning to kidnap anyone?''

Devaney replied: ''Most definitely not.''

The court was told Devaney and lapdancers Mandy Cool, 29, from Southampton, Stephanie Pye, 31, and Rachel Goodchild, 24, also from Southampton, arrived at Mr Woodman's premises at around 4pm with the brothers.

''Curtis was outside his work place,'' Devaney said. ''I wound my window down and said 'Curtis, we need to talk'.

''At that point, he looked very guilty. He said 'I don't want to do this here, I want to take this somewhere else'. Then he got into my car.''

Devaney said Mr Woodman directed the group round Cheltenham and kept arranging to meet his business partner, who had £30,000 of the money, but he did not show up.

Mr Woodman claims he was robbed of £60 in cash, his £4,650 Breitling watch and forced to transfer £4,800 to Devaney in the two hour incident.

But Devaney said he agreed to transfer the money as part payment for that owed to the women.

''He could have walked away at any time,'' she told the jury.

She accepted Mr Woodman could have been assaulted by Morris after suggesting that the women had been working as prostitutes.

But when asked if there had been a kidnap that day, Devaney replied: ''Absolutely not, it is ridiculous.''

She agreed with a witness statement she had made after her arrest, stating Mr Woodman had invented the kidnap to get out of paying the women.

''That's pretty much it,'' Devaney said. ''Most definitely. He has lied. To this day, no-one has had a penny of that money.''

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, is expected to last up to three weeks.

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