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MEMBERS of a group allegedly on a revenge mission to track down a man they believed burned down a gym were “going out for a social dinner” and did not kidnap a businessman, a court heard.

Daniel Harkins, owner of Samson’s Gym, in Chamberlayne Road, Eastleigh, told Southampton Crown Court that he had decided to take five men out for dinner “to boost team morale” after they had carried out building and repair work on the premises following an arson attack in January.

The gang is alleged to have kidnapped Richard Baker from his premises in Seddul Bahr Industrial Estate, in West End, on the night of January 19 as he knew a man Harkins wanted to speak to called ‘G’ in connection with the fire.

When asked by prosecutor Charles Gabb whether he had enlisted the help of the group to kidnap Mr Baker and try and hurt G, he said: “I run a boxing gym with champions do you not think I could have got a group a bit better than this?

“They’re all like 50. There are champion boxers at my gym body builders and fighters. There are hundreds of people that use the gym. I could find better.”

Mr Gabb added: “Somebody, some persons in this case must be telling the most outrageous lies.

“Mr Baker has not manufactured a complete story about this. It is outrageous. Why would Mr Baker make up a story like this, abandon his home and his business and leave the area all for the sake of a story?”

Harkins told the court that he did not intend to hurt G but wanted to “sit down and talk to him calmly” to discuss the rumours he was responsible for the blaze.

The court heard that Harkins’ story differed to his original defence statement, which said he had discussed his plans to find G with “several people who were helping repair the gym and that some decided to go with him in case there was any hostility”.

Harkins, 36, of Sherborne Road, Eastleigh; Jamie Kingstone, 40, of Paynes Road, Shirley; Leroy King,
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34, of Dutton Lane, Eastleigh; Rodney Traves, 47, of Croydon Close, Southampton; Peter Chamberlain, 49, of Chaucer Road, Southampton and Alan Boddy, 47, of Goldingham Drive, Essex; are charged with conspiracy to kidnap, kidnap and assault. Luke Yeates, 33, of Woodlands Way, Bursledon, is charged with helping an organised crime group and perverting the course of justice.
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