Olympic boxer acquitted of blackmail by court

Bradley Saunders.

Bradley Saunders.

Three men including a former Olympic boxer have been found not guilty of blackmail.

Commonwealth Games medal winner Bradley Saunders, David Weegram, and Robert Darby, were due to stand trial at Teesside Crown Court in relation to a debt owed to Mr Darby.

It was alleged Mr Darby took Mr Saunders and Mr Weegram to a meeting with the debtor in a bid to secure payment.

The debtor, who cannot be named for legal reasons, disputed the amount owed and claimed the presence of Mr Saunders and Mr Weegram was designed to intimidate her.

Prosecutor Liam O’Brien offered no evidence on the morning of the day the trial was due to start.

“The Crown is under a duty to keep all cases under constant review,” he said. “Following a re-examination of some documents in the case, it has been decided there is no realistic prospect of a conviction.”

Mr Darby, 61, of St Begas Glade, Mr Weegram, 30, of Evergreen Close, both Hartlepool, and Mr Saunders, 30, formerly of East Parade, Sedgefield, were each found not guilty of blackmail by the jury on the directions of Judge Tony Briggs.

The judge made a defendant’s costs order in favour of Mr Darby, who the court heard does not qualify for legal aid.

Mr Saunders, who does qualify for legal aid, was given an order to cover estimated £800 travelling expenses from Spain, where he is now living.

Speaking after the case, Mr Darby said he was pleased the right verdict had been reached, but the case should never have been brought in the first place.

“The statements from the witnesses were very contradictory,” he said. “Serious questions need to be asked of the police and the Crown Prosecution Service as to why it got this far, and I am taking legal advice to see what I might be able to do about that.”

Mr Saunders said he plans to move back to the North East.

“I’m going to give the boxing one more go,” he added.

As an amateur Mr Saunders won a silver medal in the light welterweight division at the 2010 Commonwealth Games, gold at the 2009 EU Championships and bronze at the 2007 World Championships.

He also fought in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing when he was defeated in the second round.

He had his first professional fight in February 2012.