THE “leader” of a gang of kidnappers told an employee to dispose of vital evidence that he believed would lead to his conviction, a court heard.

Samson’s Gym owner Daniel Harkins gave a number of items to Luke Yeates just hours before police arrested him, prosecutor Charles Gabb told Southampton Crown Court.

Harkins told Yeates he was “going to be done” for the crime and also asked him to run the gym in his absence.

The 36-year-old, of Sherborne Road, Eastleigh, is one of six men charged with kidnapping businessman Richard Baker and subjecting him to “extreme” bouts of pain in a bid to find two people they believed set fire to his gym, in Derby Road, in January.

The six have also charged with conspiracy to kidnap and assault.

Nevertheless, Mr Gabb told the court that following Yeates’ arrest in March, the evidence was found dumped in a bush around the corner from his Bursledon home.

Items collected included the knuckleduster and two mobile phones wrapped in wet-wipes, the purpose of which, Mr Gabb explained, could only be put down as “to remove evidence, such as DNA and fingerprints”.

The prosecution also claimed that Harkins had tried to lessen his role in the kidnapping by telling Mr Baker a “blatant lie” that he and accomplice Leroy King were the only ones stopping the other four men from “doing the worst to you”. He added that “they are from London”, which none of them actually are.

As reported, Harkins is on trial along with King, 34, of Dutton Lane, Eastleigh; Jamie Kingston, 40, of Paynes Road, Shirley; Rodney Traves, 47, of Croydon Close, Southampton; Peter Chamberlain, of Christchurch; and Alan Boddy, of Braintree, Essex.

Yeates, of Woodlands Way, Bursledon, is charged with helping an organised crime group and perverting the course of justice.

All seven defendants plead not-guilty.

Mr Gabb told the court that on January 19, the group planned to track down Matthew Kille and a man only referred to as “G”, as they believed the pair were connected with the gym arson.

The prosecution claims that the gang kidnapped Mr Baker because he was a known associate of the pair. Following a series of threats, including sexually abusing his children and wife, and after being attacked with a screwdriver, Mr Baker escaped and phoned the police.

The trial continues.