A South Yorkshire blackmail suspect accused of helping threaten business owners said he was working to feed his new baby.
Prosecutors say 34-year-old Triston Saltmarsh, of Sutton Road, Askern, Doncaster, was a foot soldier in a blackmail scam designed to con the owners of small businesses out of thousands of pounds.
Saltmarsh told jurors at Newcastle Crown Court he had no idea gang boss William Adams, also of Sutton Road, was posing as ‘King of the Gypsies’ Paddy Doherty to threaten his victims.
Saltmarsh claimed he was paid just £60-a-day after hunting for a job to buy nappies for his daughter in 2011.
And he said he lied during police interviews by saying he never carried out tarmac work for Adams, aged 46, because he ‘didn’t want to be branded a grass’.
However, Peter Makepeace, prosecuting, said Saltmarsh was telling ‘lie after lie’ and had been a ‘close friend’ of Adams.
Mr Makepeace said: “Feeding a baby is one reason you might need to find work, feeding a heroin addiction is another.”
Saltmarsh told the court about his involvement in Adams’ dodgy business.
Jurors were told that as the gang travelled back from a job in Staffordshire they were stopped by police, who seized Adams’ phone which he had passed to Saltmarsh.
Saltmarsh claims he was pressured into lying to police after Adams – who has admitted conspiracy to blackmail – handed him the phone and told him not to say anything. He said he travelled to Newcastle on the day of a bogus tarmac job at a North Tyneside pub.
Immediately after carrying out the work, the court heard, staff at the pub received calls in which they were threatened with castration unless they handed over £19,000.
Saltmarsh, 26-year-old Terence Cunningham junior, also of Sutton Road, and 43-year-olds Darren Squire, of Manor Road, Askern, and Jason Hazell, of Spa Terrace, Askern, deny conspiracy to blackmail.
Terence Cunningham senior, 48, also of Sutton Road has admitted the same charge.
Michael Howley, 72, of Highgrove, Messingham, Scunthorpe, denies money laundering.
The trial continues.