It was the Sunday Times of the 26th October 2007 that broke the story of an alleged sex and drugs blackmail plot involving two men and a member of the Royal Family. (Although the Mail on Sunday also got wind of the story and published its own version.)
Sex and Drugs and Royalty
According to the Sunday Times it all began on the 2nd August 2007 when a man telephoned the royal's office and claimed to be in possession of a video which depicted a member of the royal family "engaged in a sex act". Apparently the video showed this royal aide snorting cocaine, giving oral sex to the royal in question, and was also said to contain other "unsubstantiated allegations" concerning other members of the Royal Family. (It was even suggested by some later reports that the cocaine had been provided by the royal and that the alleged blackmailers were in possession of an envelope embossed with the royal's personal insignia which contained cocaine.) During the course of this and further conversations the caller apparently demanded the sum of £50,000 in return for this video and left details of his mobile phone number.
The royal in question then contacted Scotland Yard who despatched a detective from their kidnap and blackmail unit. Posing as a member of staff this detective then arranged a meeting with the alleged blackmailers at the Hilton Hotel on Park Lane in Mayfair on the 11th September, where two men played what they claimed was the sex video in question. Scotland Yard naturally launched an undercover operation to monitor the meeting and two individuals, later referred to as "a 30-year-old man and a 40-year-old man", were both arrested.
The two men duly appeared at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court on the 13th September, where they both faced one count of blackmail, being remanded in custody to appear at the Old Bailey on the 20th December. This hearing was held in camera and the Crown Prosecution Service obtained what is commonly known as a 'gagging order', that is an order under Section 11 of the Contempt of Court Act 1981 preventing the publication of anything which would lead to the identification of the victims or the witnesses.
According to the BBC these claims related to a "member of the family with a low public profile" whilst an official Buckingham Palace spokesman declined to comment simply noting that it was a "a matter for the police".
The alleged blackmailers named
On the following Monday some of the mystery was dispelled when The Times referred to the story as "a gay-sex-and-drugs blackmail plot", which limited the field somewhat, whilst almost the entire British press then named the two accused men as being Ian Strachan and Sean McGuigan. (Since the earlier court order did not prevent the naming of the accused.)
Ian Strachan was described by the Daily Mirror as "a Scots-born businessman" and The Sun as a "socialite with a millionaire lifestyle" who claimed to have met the Princes William and Harry twice, as well as Zara Phillips and Frederick Windsor. (As indeed have thousands of others.) According to the Daily Mail he was originally known as Paul Adalsteinsson, before deciding to adopt his mother's maiden name, and that he was bisexual and "posts his details on a gay website". He lived with his mother in an apartment near Chelsea Harbour, and despite claims he had made regarding his father being a wealthy Icelandic judge, he was in fact employed at a fish processing factory in Fraserburgh.
His accomplice Sean McGuigan had his own flat just across the Thames at Battersea in London, which was owned by Threshold Support. (An organisation which "offers a range of housing, support and care services to people with learning disabilities, mental health needs and other vulnerable people") Described as "a very odd character" by one neighbour, the Mail also found "a London acquaintance" prepared to describe McGuigan as being "like a raddled Sean Penn" and that he "exudes the atmosphere of someone who got through life without ever doing a day's work".
For reasons best known to himself Mr Strachan engaged the services of the Italian 'celebrity lawyer' Giovanni di Stefano. Signor di Stefano, who once declared that "Everybody hates Satan, but we never actually heard his side of the story", has made something of a name for himself by defending a number of high profile clients such as Saddam Hussein, Harold Shipman, Ian Brady and Kenneth Noye. (And therefore would not seem to be the obvious choice for someone who was actually innocent as charged.)
A number of newspapers reported that Signor di Stefano had issued a denial that his client had ever called the Royal Household but rather "the private business office of the individual concerned". (Although quite why this made a difference was unclear). He also announced that "My client denies that he asked for any money and that it was in fact the office of the individual concerned who first offered money." (There was naturally no suggestion that his client declined the cash offer.)
Di Stefano did however state that there was in fact "no video of any member of the Royal Family or in fact anyone, committing a sexual act on anyone", and indeed it soon became clear that many of the initial reports on the case had been in many ways misleading, as it appeared that there was no footage of anyone carrying out a sex act on anyone else. What there was, it seemed, was a recording that someone had made on their mobile phone of a royal aide chatting away on the subject of his (presumably former) employers. During the course of the conversation the aide simply claimed to have performed the aforementioned sex act on a member of the royal family, just as they also claimed to have had a fling with a certain Member of Parliament, and also alleged that the true cause of death of a member of the Royal Family had been kept secret in order to prevent embarrassment. Apparently the aide could also be "seen taking cocaine from an envelope bearing the royal person's name, chopping up the drug with a Harrods credit card and snorting it".
The royal in question
Of course the British press was forbidden by a court order from revealing the name or even the gender of the member of the Royal Family in question although as was made quite clear, journalists were well aware of the identity of the royal involved only they simply weren't allowed to say. Of course the existence of this court order did nothing to prevent the Italian newspapers Repubblica (headline 'Sex and coke at Buckingham Palace - it's ***** the royal blackmailed') and Corriere della Sera (Blackmail: It's a ****** of the Queen') from both publishing the name of the royal involved, whilst the cat was truly let out of the bag by the journalist and author Nicholas Davies who named the individual during a telephone interview on the Live Desk show broadcast by Fox News.
A number of websites then duly repeated the information as indeed did an increasing number of non-British newspapers. It can therefore be revealed that the member of the Royal family concerned was the individual variously known as the Viscount Linley or David Linley, who is really David Albert Armstrong-Jones, the son of Antony Charles Armstrong-Jones, 1st Earl of Snowdon and the late Princess Margaret, and is therefore nephew to the current reigning monarch and twelfth in line to the throne.
Apparently di Stefano is now in the process of "negotiating" and attempting to persuade the authorities not to take the case any further, acting on the assumption that he did not belive that "the Royal Family would like any of this laundry washed in public."
Which of course begs the question as to whether there was any "laundry" in the first place. The Daily Mail quoted a Scotland Yard source as stating that they were "totally satisfied" that the Viscount Linley had not been involved in any of the acts alleged, whilst it also became clear that Strachan and McGuigan had made several attempts to sell the footage to the media in the past six months without finding any buyers. The reason why they found no buyers was simply that no one was convinced that they had anything more than a video clip of someone mouthing off whilst under the influence.
- David Leppard, Royal targeted in sex and drugs blackmail plot,
The Sunday Times October 28, 2007
- Glen Owen, Royal in 'sex and cocaine blackmail video plot', 28th October 2007
later updated as 'Sex and drugs' blackmail plot royal: I'm innocent, 31st October 2007
- 'Blackmail plot royal not senior' BBC News 29 October 2007,
- Haroon Siddique, Rachel Williams and agencies, Alleged blackmailers of royal named, The Guardian October 29, 2007
- Websites name UK 'blackmail royal' The Times, October 30, 2007
- Lindsay Mcintosh and Nick Pisa, Foreign press rush to name 'blackmail' royal, The Scotsman 31 Oct 2007