Ex Leeds United director convicted of blackmail

By Jessica Elgot, October 3, 2011
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Property mogul Simon Morris, who sent his 21-stone bodyguard to force a former business partner and fellow member of the Leeds Jewish community into repaying a loan, has been found guilty of blackmail and told he will face jail.

Former Leeds United boss Simon Morris, 34, who was heavily in debt after several failed dealings, asked Jonathan Ashworth, 51, to visit Hedley Manton at his office to collect £100,000 he had lent him to buy a house.

The jury took just 55 minutes to convict Morris and Ashworth of conspiracy to commit blackmail. Both men will be sentenced on October 24.

During the trial, Ashworth was described by Mr Manton as "the biggest man I'd ever seen.

"He said the money was owed and that, if it was not paid, he would jump over this table and stab me."

Prosecuting, Simon Batiste said: "Simon Morris was a highly successful businessman. However, by the first half of 2009 his business empire was imploding. In April 2009, he was desperately trying to avoid being made bankrupt."

The allegations arose after a conflict over an £800,000 house in Leeds that Mr Morris was set to sell to Mr Manton.

The Yorkshire Post reported that Judge Brian Forster QC granted them both bail but warned: “I will only be able to impose a custodial sentence.”

Last updated: 5:49pm, October 3 2011