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KARATE CONMAN BACK IN BUSINESS SIX YEARS AFTER HE WAS EXPOSED BY SUNDAY MERCURY... Instructor's martial arts claims rubbished.

Byline: EMILY ANDREWS

A KARATE instructor who fled the Midlands after he was unmasked as a callous conman has set up in business again - making the same outlandish claims.

Gary Harrison, 48, boasts he is a former world champion, a Seventh Dan black belt and says he is pals with Hollywood stars.

He also brags about establishing two martial arts national bodies - the Amateur Martial Arts Association and the British Shito-Ryu Karate Association.

But his claims have been rubbished by the societies, who say they have never heard of him.

The Sunday Mercury first exposed Lichfield-born Harrison six years ago.

We revealed how former pupil Liz Bottomly won pounds 23,500 negligence damages against him after she was left crippled for life following a class.

Liz, a 36-year-old mother-of-two from Hednesford, Staffordshire, suffered a badly broken leg during her third lesson.

It later transpired that Harrison had insufficient insurance to cover a substantial damages award.

Now he has set up business again in Somerset.

We were alerted by a worried parent who read the original Sunday Mercury investigation on our website.

The dad sends his six year-old son to Harrison's classes but became suspicious of his background.

'Many of the parents at his classes have become concerned about his claims,' he said. 'Pupils have flocked to the kick-boxing lessons because his advertising says he is a martial arts champion and has trained former UK and worldwide champions. But I have a martial arts background and I was worried that things didn't add up.

'He claimed to have established the AMA and the BSKA - but both presidents have said this is not true. They also said it was impossible for him to have a Seventh Dan. He also said he'd been picked for the British Martial Arts Team, but when I did some investigating I found that to be untrue as well.

'I think he's abusing our trust.'

Since moving south, Harrison now boasts movie star and action-man Jean Claude Van Damme as a pal. He invited the Hollywood star to train his pupils earlier this year but charged pounds 100 per person.

But they were left furious when Van Damme turned up - and left soon afterwards. In our original article we exposed Harrison for boasting about qualifications he never had. Now he is using the same ruse again.

Professor Roger Mills, chairman of the BSKA, said: 'There is more than one BSKA but I can assure you that I do not know of this individual.'

And Clayton Murrain of the AMA said: 'Mr Harrison was not part of the setting up of the Amateur Martial Arts Association.'

Willie Thomas, from the English Karate Governing Body, said: 'It is impossible for this man to be a Seventh Dan because he is far too young and I would certainly question his motives as to why he is claiming these things.'

When contacted by the Sunday Mercury, Harrison said he could prove all his qualification claims - and revealed he was now teaching in classes across the country.

He said: 'I have never lied about anything. I am employed by a company called Kick Sport UK and take part in classes in Somerset but also in the Midlands.

'The accident (Mrs Bottomly) is the only one to have ever taken place in any of my classes and I am fully insured.'

And he insisted Hollywood actor Van Damme was a friend and denied ripping off pupils. He said: 'I'd say 99.9 per cent of people were very happy with the visit.'

'I was going through a bad time when the first Sunday Mercury story ran, but that is all behind me now.

'The article did not actually do me any harm. People know and trust me.'

'I would recommend that people check to see whether their instructors are registered with the EKGB if they have any concerns.'

He added: 'I couldn't believe it when I read your article about what he'd done in Staffordshire. I was shocked.

'I just can't believe he's doing the same thing here in Somerset.'

CAPTION(S):

VISIT: star Van Damme BOASTS: karate instructor Gary Harrison has set up in Somerset
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Publication:Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, England)
Date:Mar 6, 2005
Words:692
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