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BEATEN BY ROBBERS IN STRIP CLUB SCAM; TV detective tells of ordeal to expose holiday crimes.


A BIRMINGHAM undercover investigator last night told how he was lured into the darkened back room of a strip club and brutally beaten up.

Conor Woodman, 38, was attacked while filming a television series in Prague, and kept captive until he handed over all the cash he had on him.

The TV detective was covertly filming for Scam City, a documentary show which starts this week. The beating Conor took came after a catalogue of crime in the Czech capital, which included him: being sold bogus cocaine by a drug dealer; having his pocket picked by a prostitute; being short-changed by black marketeers, and being charged three times the normal rate by a taxi driver.

"I was filming through a button on my shirt," he said. "We wanted to investigate the perils that befall too many tourists abroad, and what we found in Prague was shocking by anyone's standards.

"I was taken to a strip club where a girl chatted me up and led me to a darkened room at the back. As soon as I entered the room I was attacked by a 'heavy' who demanded 500 euros.

Kidnap "Getting roughed up was really unpleasant. It was very intimidating.

They wouldn't let me leave until I'd given them all the money I had on me, which came to 350 euros. When I got out, I was shaking.

"Part of me was thinking 'Oh my God this is terrible, I need to get out of here'," he admitted. "But the TV part of me was thrilled because it's the sort of thing that I wanted to expose.

"It's the sort of thing that could easily happen to tourists. I'd already been over-charged by a taxi driver and short-changed on a market stall. Then a prostitute tried to pick my pocket.

"I was approached by a drug dealer in the street, who offered to sell me cocaine. But it wasn't. We realised that what was being peddled was actually stomach tablets. It was another scam."

Despite the ordeal he underwent in Prague, it was during a visit to Argentina Aires that Conor feared for his life.

"The most dangerous moment came while I was talking to a gang in Buenos Aires who distribute large quantities of counterfeit bills. Their day job is armed robbery and kidnap.

"They insisted on wearing masks and, in the middle of the interview, one of them sniffed an enormous line of cocaine. Then they waved a gun in my face and told me to hurry up, which was unsettling.

"I was also stopped by the police in Barcelona, where I was with a gang of pickpockets stealing things on the Metro, showing how it is done. We gave it all back and the police let us go.

"The idea of the series is that I get scammed so you don't have to. Being forewarned is forearmed. People relax too much when they go away. Don't give your common sense a holiday, too."

Scam City airs on the National Geographic channel. Conor also visits cities including Rio de Janeiro, Marrakesh, Bangkok, Rome and Istanbul to encounter con artists and thieves.

He then gets them to open up about the tricks of their trade.

"That's the crucial part of the series, and I was worried I wouldn't be able to get them to talk," said Conor. "But most of them are extroverts who want to show off."

Conor was born in Ireland but moved to Moseley in Birmingham at the age of eight. His parents, who are doctors, still live there. He attended King Edward's Camp Hill in Kings Heath and King Edward's in Edgbaston.

After going to university in Manchester he became a stockbroker in the City of London - but hated it.

He shot to TV fame when he gave up his job and sold his flat, using PS25,000 to barter his way around the world. It became the 2009 Channel 4 series Around The World in 80 Trades, in which he sold everything from camels to coffee, and doubled his stake.

Conor, who has visited more than 100 countries, said: "I have a theory that Tolkien based his Hobbits on Brummies. We don't like to wander off - but when we do, we go a long way away and have a real adventure."

Scam City begins on National Geographic Channel on Wednesday at 8pm. Wish you were here...?








BRAVE: TV detective Conor Woodman and below, some of the cities in which he's gone undercover.
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Oct 14, 2012
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