x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Three accused of blackmail over Wayne Rooney family's lost camera

Trio accused of demanding cash from Manchester United footballer for return of camera lost by his wife Coleen at pop concert or they would sell pictures of his son Kai, now 18 months old, to tabloid newspapers in Britain and abroad.

Jennifer Green, right, arrives at Manchester Magistrates Court yesterday. She is the girlfriend of the alleged ringleader of the blackmail scheme. Paul Ellis / AFP
Jennifer Green, right, arrives at Manchester Magistrates Court yesterday. She is the girlfriend of the alleged ringleader of the blackmail scheme. Paul Ellis / AFP

LONDON // Three people appeared in court yesterday accused of trying to blackmail the England and Manchester United football star Wayne Rooney and his wife.

The two men and one woman were accused of demanding money "with menaces" from the couple after finding Coleen Rooney's camera, which she had lost when the pair attended a pop concert in Manchester last year.

Police sources said accused the trio of demanding cash from Rooney, one of the world's highest paid footballers, for the return of the camera. Otherwise, they said they would sell pictures of the couple's son Kai, now 18 months old, to tabloid newspapers in Britain and abroad.

Mrs Rooney, 25, and her husband had been in the VIP area of the Manchester Evening News Arena in May last year for a concert by the American band, Black Eyed Peas, when the Samsung digital phone camera was lost.

In August, the couple received demands for an initial £5,000 (Dh29,700) for the return of the camera's memory card, which was said to hold more than 100 family pictures, mainly of Kai.

An investigation by British Transport Police, who are responsible for the concert arena because it is on railway property, led to the arrest of the alleged ringleader, Lee Platt, 28, his 25-year-old girlfriend Jennifer Green and Steven Malcolm, 42, all from the Manchester area.

It is understood that they were rounded up after the Rooneys alerted police to the blackmail plot and detectives set up an elaborate telephone "sting" operation, which led to the arrests in September.

The three appeared before magistrates in the city yesterday, all charged with blackmail between August and September last year.

An additional charge accused the three of receiving stolen goods between May and August last year. Magistrates sent them for trial in a higher court, remanding Mr Platt in custody and freeing the other two on bail. They will appear for an initial hearing in Manchester Crown Court next month.

Mrs Rooney, who is expected to give evidence at the trial, was said to have been left "sickened" by the blackmail attempt.

A friend told the Daily Mail: "She has been left shaken to the core over the latest incident. She was really upset.

"She was sickened that strangers had taken the camera and were trying to use such personal and private pictures to make some money."

The celebrity couple watched the concert from a private, £2,500 box at the arena and Mrs Rooney is believed to have lost the camera after putting it down on a table in a hospitality area after the show.

She had not realised it was missing until the couple returned to their £4.5 million mansion in Cheshire. She immediately called the management at the arena but search failed to find it.

The alleged blackmail plot represents the latest in a series of episodes that have made the Rooneys one of the most talked about couples in Britain.

Coleen has become a celebrity in her own right since dating and then marrying the fiery England star, but their relationship has not been without its well-publicised problems, primarily when Rooney, 25, was accused of sleeping with a prostitute while his wife was pregnant.

Nevertheless, the couple stayed together with Coleen gracing the cover of Vogue and launching her own range of clothes and perfumes.

However, her attempts at a career in television have not been successful.

ITV cancelled a show called Coleen's Real Women earlier this year after ratings plummeted and her attempts at being an interviewer in the final of X Factor failed to impress viewers.

dsapsted@thenational.ae