7:05pm Friday 31st January 2014
© Press Association
Three lapdancers and their manager have expressed their relief at being cleared of kidnapping a club boss who failed to pay them £42,000 in wages.
DJ and producer Charlotte Devaney, 34, who starred alongside comedian and actor Simon Pegg in hit Hollywood comedy How To Lose Friends And Alienate People and collaborated with US rapper Snoop Dogg on her latest single, Flip It, recruited the lapdancers.
Miss Devaney, who spoke on behalf of the women, said they were pleased by the verdict following the three-and-a-half-week trial at Bristol Crown Court.
"It is the right verdict," Miss Devaney said.
"We are now looking forward to getting on with our lives now."
Miss Devaney, lapdancers Mandy Cool, 29, Stephanie Pye, 31, and Rachel Goodchild, 24, and brothers Alex Morris, 23, and Robert Morris, 27, were accused of kidnapping businessman Curtis Woodman, 34.
Outside court, Robert Morris celebrated his acquittal by revealing his "lucky" "Will Smith For President" T-shirt - a cheeky reference to comments Mr Woodman made to the jury saying he looked like the Hollywood actor.
"I'm ecstatic," the professional Muay Thai fighter said.
"The last time I cried was when I was 15 years old. I had to fight for my liberty in that courtroom for weeks - it just wasn't right."
The court heard that in March 2012, Miss Devaney recruited 60 lapdancers to work for Mr Woodman at his pop-up nightclub during the famous Cheltenham Festival.
Authorities closed the Embassy Club in Cheltenham on its third night because the dancers stripped off - despite rules ordering them to wear nipple tassels and bikinis.
Mr Woodman refused to pay Miss Devaney and the lapdancers, who paid £150 each per night to work at his club, more than £42,000 they had earned during its first two nights.
After six months of the women repeatedly asking for the money, Miss Devaney, the three dancers and the Morris brothers, drove to Mr Woodman's work premises in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire, to demand answers.
Mr Woodman claimed the women - wearing miniskirts, stilettos and Daisy Duke shorts - surrounded him and bundled him into a BMW where he was threatened with a knife and assaulted.
He insisted that during the two-hour incident, on September 3 2012, he was robbed of £60 and his £4,650 Breitling Skyland Avenger watch, and was forced to transfer £4,800 to Miss Devaney.
But a jury of seven men and five women rejected Mr Woodman's account, following two days of deliberations.
Miss Devaney, of London, and Miss Cool, of Southampton, Miss Pye, of Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, Miss Goodchild, of Southampton, were cleared of a charge of kidnapping Mr Woodman.
The brothers, both from Southampton, were also cleared of kidnapping the businessman. Robert Morris was cleared of robbing him of £60.
Alex Morris, who refused to attend court to hear the verdict, was convicted of robbing Mr Woodman of the Breitling watch and £60.
He had previously admitted carrying a bladed article, namely a Stanley knife, on the day of the incident.
Civil proceedings will now take place against Mr Woodman for the disputed £42,000 wages.
The court heard the £42,000 sum related to money from one customer, named only as "Steve" in court, who spent six hours with lapdancers at the club.
Steve, who had won £50,000 at the races that day, spent £700 on drinks and racked up his bill drinking and singing Rod Stewart songs with the women.
But the following morning, he contacted his credit card company complaining that the bill was fraudulent. An investigation was launched - freezing the money for 120 days.
Police later decided the money had been legitimately spent and it was transferred to Mr Woodman, who failed to pass it on to the women who had earned it.
Mr Woodman told the jury this was because they had breached contracts agreeing to wear nipple tassels and bikinis, leading to the club being closed on its third night.
"If you have ever asked a stripper to keep her clothes on when she is working, it doesn't happen," Mr Woodman, who gave evidence behind a screen, told the jury.
"I was constantly bombarding them - 'Put your clothes on, we are going to get shut down'."
Miss Devaney said 19 girls were left unpaid after the closure and she spent months chasing Mr Woodman for their wages before deciding to confront him.
During the two-hour meeting, Mr Woodman was punched by Robert Morris and saw a Stanley knife belonging to Alex Morris in Miss Devaney's BMW 1 Series car.
Alex Morris robbed Mr Woodman of £60 in cash from his pockets and his £4,650 Breitling watch, which has a 1.7in face.
A custody officer discovered the watch in Alex Morris's anus two days after his arrest.
Mr Woodman phoned his bank to transfer £4,800 to Miss Devaney's account.
Miss Devaney, giving evidence, said Mr Woodman concocted the kidnap story to avoid paying his debts.
"He invented all of this so he didn't have to pay us the money back," she said.
"You don't make girls take their clothes off and then not pay them to work."
Alex Morris will be sentenced on February 10.
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