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Kidnap and blackmail trial verdict: Estelle cousin not guilty

PUBLISHED: 10:41 09 April 2013 | UPDATED: 10:41 09 April 2013

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The cousin of R&B singer Estelle has been cleared of plotting to kidnap and blackmail a 58-year-old man.

Jude Lebaga, 33, of Chelmer Crescent, Barking, was one of three men accused of bundling the dad-of-five into the back of his own Land Rover and driving off on September 25 last year.

Bernard Morrisson, from Romford, claimed he was jumped on outside a pharmacy in Barking Road, East Ham, and only managed to escape his alleged kidnappers when the car stopped 30 miles away near Southend, Essex.

According to Mr Morrisson, they punched him, used a stun gun on him and demanded his drug-dealer son repaid the £200 he owed while making threats concerning his other family members.

He told the 999 responder: “When I came out they were standing there and got into the back of my car. They grabbed me and said to me ‘you have something that belongs to us’. Then they punched me in the side of my face.”

But at Snaresbrook Crown Court last week, the court heard that Mr Morrison gave different explanations of the incident in his 999 call and later to police.

He had also described fleeing the vehicle and running away despite claiming he could not walk without a stick and was recovering from a heart attack, the court was told.

“How can a man who suffers from these conditions while in the clutches of some monster jump out of the car and run up the road?” asked defence counsel Elizabeth Lambert.

She also queried his account of his injuries, having first said he was punched seven times in the face but sustaining no bruising.

Lebaga’s co-defendants Nathan James, 31, of Elmley Street, Plumstead, and Joe Grant, 34, of Thornhill Gardens, Leyton, admitted they were present but said they were trying to buy cannabis growing equipment from Mr Morrisson.

Lebaga chose not to testify in court and was not identified by Mr Morrisson.

A jury of four men and eight woman cleared Lebaga, James and Grant of all counts on Tuesday 9.

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