Fantasist and alcoholic jailed for plot to blackmail royal over 'gay sex tapes'

A "Walter Mitty" fantasist and his alcoholic friend have been found guilty of a £50,000 gay sex blackmail plot against a mystery member of the Royal Family.

Ian Strachan and Sean McGuigan each received five- year jail terms after an investigation and three-week trial costing more than £1m.

The pair had threatened to release sound recordings in which the royal's aide made "scandalous" remarks about his employer, including claims he had performed oral sex on him on the kitchen floor during a party.

Mr Justice Cooke said: "The corrosive evil of blackmail means that any sentence must have a deterrent effect," adding that he was sure they had acted together to target the royal – a "particularly susceptible" victim.

The trial was so sensitive that much of it was cloaked in secrecy. The married royal's identity was hidden, along with 30 other witnesses. He was merely referred to as witness A, while his aide was known as witness D.

The Old Bailey heard that Strachan, 31, and McGuigan, 41, obtained audio and video recordings of the senior aide snorting cocaine and bragging about his employer. The man, described as the royal's "right-hand man" and close confidant, went on to make disparaging and scurrilous remarks about other members of the Royal Family as Strachan recorded them using a mobile phone owned by McGuigan.

Witness A insisted the claims were "spurious and without foundation" and that he would do "whatever it takes" to protect his family from the blackmailers.

The court heard that the men tried to sell their wares to the press. A reporter from the News of the World met Strachan on several occasions, but when the paper decided not to print the story, the two men approached The Sun, the Sunday Express, The Mail on Sunday and the publicist Max Clifford. When all of them declined to buy the material, the pair approached the royal because they believed he would be the most "damaged and embarrassed" by the revelations.

They claimed they were merely trying to protect witness A from the material becoming public. Strachan said that he wanted to expose the aide, witness D, for being "not a very nice person" and accused him of spiking the drinks of men, including himself, with the date rape drug Rohypnol before sexually assaulting them.

The men were arrested last September at the Hilton Hotel in Mayfair after organising a meeting to collect £50,000 from a man they believed was another aide. In reality, he was an undercover police officer.

Strachan, of Fulham, south-west London, and McGuigan, of Battersea, south London, were found guilty yesterday of demanding money with menaces. Mark Ellison QC, for the prosecution, said the case was a "classic example of blackmail".

The court heard that Strachan, who was previously known as Paul Adalsteinsson, was a "Walter Mitty" fantasist who liked to claim he was a friend of royals and lived a champagne lifestyle on the London party circuit. He was in fact a university drop-out who owed thousands of pounds to witness D and lived with his mother. The grandson of an Icelandic fisherman who moved to Grimsby at the age of 16, his father is believed to have worked in a fish processing factory in Scotland.

While he had no serious convictions, Strachan was investigated in 2004 over an accusation that he subjected a man to threats via phone calls and text messages. He was later fined £50 for non-attendance in court, but the witness in the case decided not to go ahead.

In his defence, Strachan claimed he liked the royal and never wished to harm him. He had taped the aide, a man he described as a "gay sexual predator", to warn his employer. But the jury did not believe his story.

McGuigan, a recovering alcoholic who was said to have met Strachan three years ago when he worked as a van driver for a male dance troupe, has a series of criminal convictions. Many are believed to have been alcohol-related, such as the five-month jail term he received for smashing up a car.

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