IN DECEMBER 1986, Conrad Jameson, interior architect to the likes of IBM, ICI and Players' cigarettes, was commissioned to re-design the homes of one of Britain's richest and most reclusive businessmen.
His client had a reputation for moral probity. He founded and is still a trustee of a national charity for abused children. Six and a half years later, Mr Jameson found himself in the dock, accused of a pounds 500,000 blackmail bid.
The prosecution said that Mr Jameson threatened to make public allegations of dubious financial deals and bizarre sexual behaviour by the businessman. It said Mr Jameson was prepared to drop the claims in return for a cash settlement.
But Mr Jameson was acquitted yesterday at the Old Bailey, when Judge John Murchie directed the jury to find him not guilty of blackmail after the Crown's case collapsed.
The millionaire, referred to as Mr A, first met Mr Jameson in 1986 and hired him to do work worth over pounds 1m on a mews cottage in London, and his home in Buckinghamshire.
After work started, so did the disagreements, culminating in a civil action brought by Mr A against Jameson Design Ltd. Mr Jameson's response was to say that delays to the work were not his fault. There were press reports that the millionaire was 'security mad', and plans were changed frequently.
Mr Jameson told one of his lawyers: 'The real reason is that I knew too much about his financial and personal affairs.'
Mr Jameson drafted a writ with his lawyers detailing Mr A's alleged collection of pornographic paintings, his 'homosexual tendencies' and allegations suggesting Mr A's unsuitability as trustee of the charity.
If the writ were issued newpapers could publish the allegations without any risk of libel. Mr Jameson claimed journalists were already working on a story about Mr A and the writ would give it a 'peg to hang the story on'.
Details of the allegations in the draft writ trickled out in court over the past week. The draft writ alleged that Baron Simon de Wrangel, who had been employed by him as a surveyor, had been exposed to Mr A's 'extraordinary' behaviour.
While working in Mr A's Buckinghamshire house, Baron de Wrangel was allegedly shown a pornographic painting. When he looked round he saw Mr A 'with his underwear around his knees'.
A second picture, a drawing by Picasso showing a man and woman having sexual intercourse, was also shown to the jury. 'If somebody could tell me who is doing what to whom, I would be most grateful,' Mr A said. Counsel for the defence asked him if he was not pretending to be a little naive. He said he was not.
Mr Jameson also alleged Baron de Wrangel was asked by Mr A to fit a television satellite descrambling device which would enable him to watch pornographic films from Denmark and the Netherlands. Mr A told the court it was a joke.
Mr Jameson said Mr A showed his wife an antique French red leather chair which could be used to manoeuvre its occupant into various sexual positions. She was said to have been 'horrified'.
Mr A told the court he had bought the chair because it was red and described Mr Jameson's allegations as 'absolutely false'.
The judge said yesterday that he was making no findings on the allegations of improper conduct levelled at Mr A.
Mr Jameson has agreed not to pursue the allegations against Mr A in an undertaking he made in an on-going civil case with Mr A.
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