My career was destroyed by a fake story written by the notorious ‘Fake Sheikh’
Mazher Mahmood entrapped me in a dodgy sting
The News of The World illegally tasked private investigators to target me
My phone was hacked and my private records were blagged
Now I’m fighting back in the courts –
By John Alford
I wasn’t the greatest actor in the world, but I was good enough to make a living on TV for over a decade when I was young.
Firstly, in a kids’ BBC soap opera set in a school called Grange Hill during the 1980s. Then, when a I grew-up, as a fireman in an ITV Sunday night drama called London’s Burning in the 1990s. I kept my head down and kept myself to myself.
No big deal – I was just the lad from next door who got lucky, who happened to have got a bit famous, and made a few quid. Who cared?
The problem was that Rupert Murdoch’s tabloids did.
One day, I made an off-the-cuff remark about one of his editors to a fellow actor. The gossip got back to this powerful newspaper executive – and that was that. I had a target on my back. The next thing that happened was that a mysterious Arabian man drifted into my life – out of nowhere. I should have been suspicious, and when I look back, I kick myself. But I was a young guy having the time of my life. I wasn’t a sophisticated player. I trusted people.
This Sheikh guy, and his entourage, began offering me business deals and wanting to be my friend. I was eager to please, the way you are when you are young, and ambitious to get on. When I look back now, I can see it was like being the victim of some very ruthless, high-pressure salesmen, who were trying to get me to do things for them which I normally wouldn’t do.
This whole circus was an illusion – set-up with the sole purpose of inciting me to commit a crime
It was as though in the room I was under the influence of something that I could not explain. I was on my own and they were cajoling and inciting me. If they hadn’t pressured me into a meeting, I’d have been sat at home watching the golf.
Of course what I didn’t know at the time, was that this whole circus was an illusion – set-up with the sole purpose of inciting me to commit a crime, and then blaming it on me. And for no other reason than a newspaper story.
The ringmaster was an undercover reporter called Mazher Mahmood. He was disguised as an Arab oil millionaire, complete with white robes, gold-trimmed head-dress and fancy hotel suites.
His ‘entourage’ consisted of private investigators, also in disguise, from an outfit called Southern Investigations. You might recognise the name – they recently featured in a Channel 4 documentary series called ‘Murder in the Carpark’, which told how Southern’s owners Jonathan Rees and Sid Fillery were accused of conspiring to murder Rees’ former business partner Daniel Morgan. They denied it and were later acquitted when their trial collapsed. A few years after they helped Mazher Mahmood bring me down, Rees was jailed for conspiracy to frame an innocent woman for drugs offences, and Fillery had been convicted of child porn offences.
As well as using Southern Investigations to help destroy my life, the Fake Sheikh’s entourage also consisted of a sprinkling of convicted criminals and conmen, too. Mazher and his gang entrapped me into handing over a small amount of cocaine to them. And they plied me with drinks and recorded me, using a spy hole camera.
They splashed a highly manipulated version of these events over the front page of the News of The World in 1997. If this happened today, given that we now know about the criminality which occurred at Murdoch’s paper, no one would believe it.
Back in 1997, Mazher’s mask hadn’t slipped yet, the News of The World was still trading off its powerful reputation, and no one dared to question it
It would be rightly called-out as a stitch-up and a sham, just like the Tulisa Contostavlos case in 2014. Like me, Mazher had entrapped the singer into arranging the supply of a small amount of drugs.
The case against Tulisa was thrown out of court after Mazher was exposed as a liar and con artist and jailed for 14 months for fabricating evidence. But back in 1997, Mazher’s mask hadn’t slipped yet, the News of The World was still trading off its powerful reputation, and no one dared to question it. Anyone who did, got the same treatment as me.
Astonishingly, the police believed the Fake Sheikh, and I was taken to court. Crucial evidence had gone missing. There were a number of tapes which I believe would have vindicated me – but the News of The World stated that the recordings didn’t exist or weren’t audible. On a mishmash of questionable evidence, I was convicted and sent to jail.
Overnight, my TV career disappeared, I never worked for ITV again, and I went back to Camden from whence I came, living under my real name John Shannon and tried to make a living. For the next 20 years, I’ve had a bad time of it, not to mention bouts of depression. But I never gave up hope.
Slowly but surely, I have been gathering evidence of how I was stitched-up. In fact, I was one of the first people to take up the fight against Murdoch. Twenty years ago I felt alone. No one supported me in the fight.
I am suing the top executives – Rebekah Brooks, James Murdoch and the rest of them
I was glad when Hacked Off came along to help me. And now I am suing News Group Newspapers, the Sun as well as the News of the World, citing years of illegal intrusion and violations by both papers, and am suing the top executives – Rebekah Brooks, James Murdoch and the rest of them for their knowledge and encouragement of it, and for their role in the big cover-up.
My claim for “Misuse of Private Information” is due to come to trial in the High Court in November this year. It will be a ground -breaking case. I want Murdoch to be held accountable. This is really a modern-day David and Goliath situation.
It’s The People v Murdoch. It’s a very serious thing.
But to do this, I need to pay for my legal team. If you can help me with a donation, I would really appreciate your support.
Read more about John’s appeal, and support his fund here: