Gladiators star 'Shadow', 60, is jailed for his role in blackmail plot

Gladiators star ‘Shadow’, 60, is jailed for more than six years for his role in drug-fuelled blackmail plot after holding victim captive and demanding £1,000 off family to let him go

  • Michael Jefferson King, 60, was caged for six years and three months on Friday
  • King was in first three series of the popular show and became a household name
  • He is barely recognisable from his 1990s show heyday after years of drug abuse
  • King had demanded £1,000 from family for the safe return of a 40-year-old man
  • Victim Aaron Ali was held for six-and-a-half hours after a day of smoking drugs

A bodybuilder famous for his starring role in 1990s television programme Gladiators has been jailed for his part in a blackmail plot over a drugs debt.

Michael Jefferson King, known to millions as Shadow from the ITV game show, was one of four people who kept a man detained in a flat in Acton, west London, during a torturous attack lasting around eight hours.

King was described as a ‘lieutenant’ to the plot, which ended in Aaron Ali being beaten and filmed for ‘highly distressing’ videos sent to his family to elicit a payment of up to £1,000 to let him go.

At one stage, King was alleged to have ordered a co-defendant to ‘fetch a hammer to break his legs’ after Mr Ali tried to flee.

A former bodybuilder who played Shadow in the 1990s TV show Gladiators has been jailed for his role in a blackmail plot 

Michael Jefferson King, 60, was caged for six years and three months at Isleworth Crown Court 

King, 60, a long-time user of crack cocaine and heroin, was handed a sentence of six years and three months after admitting two counts of blackmail at Isleworth Crown Court.

Three other defendants, so-called ringleader Simon Batson, Donna Harman, and Otis Noel, were also sentenced for their role in the plot.

The judge, Her Honour Judge Fiona Barrie, said: ‘A plan was hatched by the four defendants to extort money from Mr Ali’s family.

‘He was subjected to a sustained and brutal attack over several hours, and from lunchtime until 9pm he said he was tortured by the group.’

She said Mr Ali said ‘he was treated as less than a human by people he knew, all for drugs and money’. 

Jefferson King, Ulrika Jonsson, and Michael Aherne in ITV’s Gladiator series

Former bodybuilder King was recruited as a Gladiator for the original 1992 series

King, born in London to Jamaica parents, moved to New York aged 14, where he joined the school American football team.

He later returned to England, where he met his wife and fathered two children before being recruited as a Gladiator for the original 1992 series hosted by Ulrika Jonsson.

In 1995 King was caught snorting cocaine, then axed from the ITV show after testing positive for steroids.

He later turned to heroin and crack cocaine, lost his home and family and served a succession of prison sentences.

In 2009 he went into rehab and stayed clean, revealing in 2011 that he had beaten his addiction and worked at a rehab clinic to help people suffering from drug problems. Last year he was arrested for heroin possession.

King showed no emotion as the sentence was passed today.

Left to right: Wolf (Michael Van Wijk), Shadow (Jefferson King), host Ulrika Jonsson, Saracen (Mike Lewis), and Cobra (Michael; Wilson) for Season 3 of Gladiators, 1994

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