Locked-up man believed he would be ‘set on fire’ at quarry

Kewstoke Quarry.

Kewstoke Quarry. - Credit: Archant

A ‘TERRIFIED’ Weston businessman was locked up in a quarry for hours and told he would be set on fire.

Stephen Waters. Photo supplied by Avon and Somerset Constabulary.

Stephen Waters. Photo supplied by Avon and Somerset Constabulary. - Credit: Avon and Somerset Constabulary

Stephen Waters and Justin Weldon punched, kicked and stamped on Graham Slade and forced him to ‘crawl like a dog’.

They hit him three times on the head with a full wine bottle in a ‘sustained and brutal’ attack, following a row over a £600,000 debt.

Weldon, a former light infantry army sniper, quit his ‘high-paid’ job with Southern Electric to become Mr Slade’s business partner, only for the dream to turn sour when he learned the former property agent was saddled with debt.

Mr Slade demanded Weldon paid half of his debts – suggesting otherwise the IRA would hunt them down, Bristol Crown Court was told on Monday.

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He agreed to meet Weldon and friend Waters at the Claremont Wine Vaults pub in Birnbeck Road on August 9. He told them he could not pay the money he already owed them, with interest being charged at £1,000 a day.

Mr Slade’s head was rammed into a table and he was punched in the face before being bundled into his Audi and driven to Kewstoke Quarry in Lower Kewstoke Road.

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Judge Michael Longman, sentencing the pair, said: “Mr Slade was forced to crawl into the lock-up like a dog.

“That happened in front of others which added to his humiliation and was degrading.

“You punched him, kicked him and stamped on him for a period he thinks lasted 30-45 minutes. It must have been terrifying for him.

“He felt he was left locked up for several hours, or at least a significant period of time.

“You deprived him of his liberty and he must have been totally afraid as to what was in store for him.

“When you returned the assaults continued. He was hit with a bottle, first to his back, a gas heater was lit for the sole purpose of threatening him. He thought, mistakenly, he would be set on fire.”

Mr Slade was dumped a short distance away from the quarry where he called his family to rescue him. He was taken to Weston General Hospital with a broken nose plus ‘serious’ bruising and swelling to his face. His body and back of his neck were swollen and he had a cut to his right palm.

Jason Taylor, defending Weldon, said his client left a £55,000-a-year job after Mr Slade offered him the chance to be a partner in a property-based business.

He was told he would be able to gas service more than 5,000 homes, expecting to create a £250,000 profit each year.

Mr Taylor said within weeks Weldon realised the deal ‘was not as good as he was told’.

He said: “Weldon became aware Mr Slade owed numerous debts to numerous people, including £15,000 to someone from Liverpool, £21,000 to a Turkish gentleman and £10,000 to a group of Albanians.”

When Weldon tried to end the business partnership, Mr Slade insisted the 37-year-old owed half of his £200,000 debt - although the amount owed was later found to be three times that.

Mr Taylor added: “Mr Slade said these debts were primarily owed to people in Ireland with links to the IRA and Weldon had to pay, otherwise he knew what the consequences would be.”

Ian Mooney, defending Waters, said Mr Slade was dishonest and ‘an individual who sails very close to wind’.

He added: “I’m not suggesting Mr Slade had it coming. However, when you look at how this arose, there’s a degree of culpability in creating a situation where tempers were lost.

“If it weren’t for Mr Slade’s behaviour, this wouldn’t have happened in the way it did.”

Weldon, of Highbury Road in Weston, and Waters, of John Fowler Caravan Park in Brean, were sentenced to four years in jail after admitting charges of false imprisonment and assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Restraining orders preventing contact with Mr Slade and his family for 10 years were put in place.

Judge Longman said: “This was a prolonged attack. It was calculated to cause fear and humiliation and the injuries he suffered.

“It was an assault with weapons and it falls very easily into the most serious of offences.”

Waters, aged 55, will spend an extra six months in prison for breaching a suspended sentence in 2011 over money lending without a licence.

A charge of blackmail levelled at a third man, George Pastou, has been dropped because no evidence was presented.

* Police say Weston is ‘safer’ now the pair have been jailed. Click here for their reaction.

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