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Tuesday, 21 December, 1999, 18:26 GMT
Hamilton: I'm broke

Neil and Christine Hamilton Neil and Christine Hamilton: Devastated and broke

Fallen MP Neil Hamilton admitted he was stunned and broke after losing his libel battle with Harrods owner Mohamed al-Fayed.

Mr Hamilton, with his wife Christine close to tears at his side, read a statement to an army of reporters outside the High Court.

Libel Trial
He said: "Of course I am stunned by the jury's verdict and continue to deny that I acted corruptly in the pursuit of my parliamentary and ministerial duties.

I will have to pay from my own assets, which I expect to be wholly exhausted
Neil Hamilton
"I would never have embarked on this action had I been guilty of the charges against me.

"I could have thrown in the towel in 1995 when the Guardian secured a stay in my libel action against them but I changed the law and got an amendment in the Bill of Rights ...

"It is difficult to see how anybody could have concluded I am guilty of these charges, considering the huge efforts that I have made to clear my name.

"This case has, however, enabled me for the first time to present the facts, and no evidence other than the word of Mr Fayed and his close employees has to this day been produced to sustain the grave charge that I accepted cash for questions."

Mr Hamilton said he did not regret bringing the case, because he could not have gone through life without "straining every sinew to do everything that was possible to bring the truth out".

He said the "waters had been muddied" at the start of the case when unrelated allegations about his consultancy with Mobil Oil were presented.

"It may well be that the questions the jury asked the judge during the trial, that that is what has secured this verdict," he said.

Fighting fund

The judge, Michael Morland, ordered that Mr Hamilton pay the legal costs of both sides, estimated at 1m.

We are not corrupt, we are not liars
Christine Hamilton
Mr Hamilton's fighting fund had so far raised just 410,000 - "so I will have to pay for the rest from my own assets, which I expect to be wholly exhausted as a result of it," Mr Hamilton said.

Mrs Hamilton continued to protest her husband's innocence outside the court.

As Mr Hamilton gave her kisses of comfort, she said: "The jury are wrong - that is all I want to say. We are not corrupt, we are not liars."

Asked if he had considered alternative careers, Mr Hamilton said he had not yet thought about the future.

As the couple approached the main doors to brave the awaiting cameras, Mrs Hamilton declined a police offer to whisk them through the crowds.

"We are always delighted to accommodate the press," she said.

Her husband then led her to the steps, and in the gathering gloom repeated his plea of innocence.

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21 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton loses libel case
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