Royal aide compared to TV's Mr Humphries in gay sex blackmail trial

The famously dainty gait of the comedy actor John Inman and a stripper called Cindy unexpectedly took centre stage at the Old Bailey yesterday when they were cited in the defence of two men accused of trying to blackmail a member of the Royal Family over gay sex claims.

A jury has heard that Ian Strachan, 31, and Sean McGuigan, 41, attempted to extort £50,000 from the unnamed royal after they obtained audio and video recordings of the man's senior aide snorting cocaine and bragging that his employer had given him oral sex on a kitchen floor during a party.

The men approached four national newspapers trying to sell the recordings before allegedly turning their attention to the royal, whose identity is protected by a court order and can only be referred to as witness A, and attempting to demand money in return for surrendering the footage.

In a series of surreal exchanges yesterday between a reporter from the News of the World newspaper and a defence barrister, the royal employee – referred to in court as witness D - was accused of being a "habitual liar" who "camped it up" in front of audiences in the manner of Mr Humphries, the effete shop worker played by Inman in the BBC sitcom Are You Being Served? The actor died in March last year.

Ronald Thwaites QC, for Mr McGuigan, sought to cast aspersions on the character of the aide by suggesting he was a "show off" given to "boasting about himself and his conquests and his contacts with the Royal Family and other celebrities".

The lawyer asked James Weatherup, a News of the World journalist who had given Mr Strachan hired recording equipment to gain more footage of D, whether he recognised a picture of the royal aide as a "boastful braggart" with a paunch and a love of playing to the gallery. Mr Thwaites said: "On the scale of John Inman from Are You Being Served?, is that how he cavorted himself around?"

The journalist rejected the claim, describing D, who claimed to be a close confidant of his employer, as full of joie de vivre and willing to gossip about those he worked for and other members of the Royal Family. Mr Weatherup said: "I did not get the impression that D had to lie about anything. He was successful, had a good job, earning an OK amount of money and living life to the full."

Continuing his cross-examination, Mr Thwaites responded: "I suggest [D] is a boastful braggart ... camping it up, mincing around, putting everybody down except himself."

The lawyer added that a woman called Cindy, later described in court as a performer at the Stringfellows lap-dancing club in central London, was offered as the only witness to the alleged sex act between the royal and his senior aide.

The jury was earlier told of the luxury lifestyle led by Mr Strachan, a regular on London's party circuit, who tried to sell the eight hours of recordings to four newspapers before he and Mr McGuigan, of Battersea, south London, decided to approach members of the royal's entourage on the pretence of wishing to expose D as an indiscreet sexual predator.

The defendants were arrested in September last year at the Hilton hotel in Mayfair, London, after setting up a meeting to collect the £50,000 with a man who they thought was another royal aide but was in reality an undercover police officer. Both Mr Strachan, of Imperial Wharf, Chelsea, and Mr McGuigan deny a charge of making "an unwarranted demand with menaces".

The case continues.

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