Former Yorkshire property tycoon jailed for blackmail plot released

Have your say

Former property tycoon and ex-Leeds United director, Simon Morris, has been released from prison.

It is understood that Morris, who once had an estimated fortune of £69m, has been tagged and released by authorities under curfew.

He was jailed for conspiring to blackmail a former business partner.

It is believed that Morris has been released on an electronic tag and the former property tycoon is now thought to be living in London.

His father, Brian, said his son now wanted to move forward with his life and put his conviction behind him.

By the time he was 30, Simon Morris was one of the richest businessmen in the UK with a fortune estimated at £69m, but his property empire collapsed and he was declared bankrupt in 2009.

He was jailed in October after a crown court jury found that he had sent his former bodyguard, Johnathon Ashworth, 51, to intimidate Hedley Manton into repaying a loan.

Morris, then aged 34, formerly of Ling Lane, Scarcroft, Leeds, and Ashworth, of Hardly Close, Dukinfield, Greater Manchester, were jailed for 18 months after being found guilty by a jury at Newcastle Crown Court.

The trial heard Morris, facing a £3.5m bankruptcy petition following the collapse of his property empire, sent Ashworth to intimidate his former business partner, Hedley Manton, into repaying a disputed £100,000 loan.

Mr Manton was said to be left “shaking and pale” after being visited three times by Ashworth, who weighed 21 stone, had a scarred face and biceps “the size of an average man’s thighs”.

As well as being convicted of conspiracy to blackmail, Ashworth pleaded guilty to possessing two offensive weapons – a CS spray canister and a knuckleduster – which were found in his car on the day he was arrested at Mr Manton’s office.

Police said the blackmail plot smacked “more of the criminal underworld than the world of legitimate business.”