TEARS filled the court room as three men were acquitted of kidnapping and assaulting a man after a three-week trial.

The jury returned a unanimous not guilty verdict on all charges against the three defendants at Basildon Crown Court today.

The judge acknowledged a kidnapping had taken place, but the jury could not be certain the three men were involved.

Bradley Scates, 25, of St Peters Road, Canvey, Daniel Bellefontaine, 37, of Little Oxcroft, Basildon, and James Newman, 34, of Mill Lane, London, had denied kidnap, causing grievous bodily harm with intent and blackmail.

Their families burst into tears as the verdict was announced.

The charges related to an incident on January 30 last year where a man was assaulted at the Burnt Mills Industrial Estate before being thrown into a van.

The man alleged his kidnappers had demanded he pay £10,000.

He was thrown out onto the A13 in Pitsea before flagging down a motorist for help.

Mr Bellefontaine and Mr Newman were then discharged and walked free from court.

Scates was then sentenced, having admitted the production of cannabis.

Mitigating, Mitchell Cohen, said: “He has been in custody since February last year. He’s not been able to see his child while in custody.”

However, Recorder Ross Johnson rejected Scates’ basis of plea, saying he was satisfied more drugs had been cultivated.

He said: “I don’t accept your basis of plea, I am satisfied you were involved in a larger cannabis grow at the green container where police found the two plants.

"I accept the victim’s account that he was kidnapped, that is not inconsistent in the verdict of the jury.

"The jury couldn’t be sure if you were involved, or the other defendants, but that does not mean it didn’t occur.”

Scates was sentenced to eight months, but released due to time served.