A CONMAN jailed for his part in a 'rare earth metals' plot has failed to convince top judges his trial was unfair.

Nicholas Matthew Start, of Spencer Close, Pamber Heath, was jailed for seven years at Blackfriars Crown Court on May 11 last year.

The 37-year-old was convicted of conspiracy to defraud, Mr Justice Jeremy Baker told London's Appeal Court on Thursday last week.

The investment scam involved victims being cold-called and persuaded to put their savings into so-called rare earth metals.

During Start's trial it came to light that one of the jurors knew a witness who had provided a statement to police but who died before the case came to court.

The juror had known the witness, a professor who had performed a role as a 'mentor' to him, many years ago.

But he had last seen him about 10 years previously and was unaware that he had since died.

Start's trial lawyers argued that the juror should be discharged on the basis there could be 'actual or apparent bias'.

But the Crown Court judge refused to do so and the trial continued.

On Thursday, Rossano Scamardella, for Start, argued that his trial had been 'unfair' and his conviction should be overturned.

The relationship between the juror and the professor had been an 'influential one', he told the court.

His evidence was 'emotive' and he had lost a 'significant sum of money' as a result of the investment scam.

But Mr Justice Baker said that the trial judge 'appropriately carried out an investigation' into the matter.

"His approach to the determination of the issue cannot be criticised."

The extent of the juror's knowledge of the witness was 'both limited and of considerable age'.

And the evidence of the professor was 'brief and not relevant to the central issues in the case against' Start.

"The renewed application for permission to appeal is refused," concluded the judge, who was sitting with two others.