Jailed former Leeds United boss family quizzed over arson

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The father of jailed former Leeds United director Simon Morris has accused the police of “constant victimisation” after he, his wife and his daughter-in-law were arrested in connection with an arson attack.

Bryan Morris, his wife Pauline and Simon’s wife Helen were questioned after a £35,000 Range Rover was torched outside a house in north Leeds.

The attack allegedly took place last Thursday – within hours of Simon Morris, 34, losing an appeal against his conviction for conspiring to blackmail a former business partner, Hedley Manton.

Detectives are believed to be investigating the possibility the fire is linked to the outcome of the court case. Police and firefighters were called to the house in Harrogate Road, Harewood, by a father of three who found his Range Rover on fire on the driveway.

The owner of the vehicle is not Mr Manton but is understood to be another former business partner of Simon Morris’s.

No one was hurt in the incident. Detectives are studying CCTV footage as part of the inquiry.

Bryan Morris said that he and his family had been in London, hearing his son’s appeal, on the day of the fire.

“The first we knew about this was when 10 police officers arrived at my address at 7.30am on Monday” he said.

“They arrested my wife and my daughter-in-law but I was not in at the time. I went to the police station as soon as I heard what had happened.

“We have our grandchildren with us for Christmas. Do you honestly think we would do anything like this?

“It is absolutely unbelievable to think that anybody would suspect two grandparents and a mother of four of arson. It is crazy. We have had years of constant victimisation. When is it going to stop?”

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 for 18 months in October after a jury found that he sent his former bodyguard, Johnathon Ashworth, 51, to intimidate Mr Manton into repaying a loan.

A West Yorkshire Police spokesman said: “We can confirm a car was damaged by fire in Harrogate Road, Harewood, on December 15. A man aged 59, a woman aged 58 and a woman aged 32, all from Leeds, were arrested in connection with the incident and later released on police bail pending further enquiries.”