Man tortured by Gladiators star Shadow feared gang would kill him

Father held and tortured by Gladiators star ‘Shadow’ in blackmail plot says he feared gang would kill him and send body parts to his family 

  • Aaron Ali was taken hostage by a gang including former Gladiators star Shadow
  • Shadow, aka Michael Jefferson King, was described as a lieutenant in the plot
  • Victim said gang threatened to send body parts to family if money wasn’t paid
  •  Mr Ali, 41, was held for six and a half hours before gang released him for £600
  • Former athlete and star King was jailed for six years and three months last week

A father who was held hostage and tortured by Gladiators star Shadow as part of a blackmail plot has revealed he thought he was going to die.

Aaron Ali, 41, who was the victim of a drug-fuelled blackmail plot, said the gang who took him captive threatened to send body parts to his family if they didn’t pay the ransom.

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

King was described as a ‘lieutenant’ to the plot, which ended in Mr 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.


Aaron Ali revealed he feared he was going to die after being taken hostage by a gang including former bodybuilder and Gladiators star Shadow aka Michael Jefferson King (pictured)

Michael Jefferson King, 60, (pictured with Ulrika Jonsson and Michael Aherne in ITV’s series) was described as a lieutenant in the plot and has been jailed for six years and three months

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.

In footage obtained by the Sunday People, the victim was pictured beaten and bloodied and could be heard begging for mercy.

The images were taken from a ransom video which was sent to the mother of his children as part of a demand for cash. 

In the clip, which was played in court as part of the trial, the former Gladiator, 60, reportedly hit Mr Ali with a wooden furniture leg.

The ringleader Simon Batson then struck Mr Ali’s face with a knife and Otis Noel hit him with a metal pole.

Mr Ali said: ‘They told me if she can’t get the money we will send pieces of your body – fingers and stuff – to her. I was terrified.


Donna Harman (left) and Otis Noel (right) were both jailed for their roles in the blackmail plot

‘I thought I would be left to die or they would kill me.’

In other footage, which was taken from a Whatsapp call made to the victim’s ex as proof that they had taken him hostage and that they would cause harm if she didn’t pay up.

She told the Sunday People: ‘I could hear them hurting him and him screaming in agony begging me to get the money.

‘I was panicking. I didn’t know where he was, if they would take the money if I got it or if they would kill him. They told me not to call the police.

‘It is such a horrible experience to see the father of your kids bleeding and crying for help.’

The ordeal only concluded when a friend of Mr Ali’s brought £600 in exchange for his release.

Pictured: ringleader Simon Batson was jailed for six years and nine months last week

Despite warnings not to call the police, Mr Ali’s ex-partner had dialled 999 after the call and alerted them to the blackmail plot.

The gang of four were arrested later that night and have since been jailed for their roles in the attack.

It emerged that Mr Ali had known King from years earlier when they used to take drugs together and that the incident had been arranged over a drug debt, with the gang wrongly believing Mr Ali had access to a large amount of money.

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 after admitting blackmail.

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

Batson, who also admitted blackmail, was jailed for six years and nine months.

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

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

After a trial, Harman and Noel were convicted of blackmail and false imprisonment and jailed for four years and seven and a half years respectively. 

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’. 

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. 

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