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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 July, 2003, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
Leslie's battle to rebuild future
John Leslie
Leslie has kept silent during the police investigation
Television presenter John Leslie will not face charges of sexual assault.

The question now is whether Mr Leslie, 38, will be able to resume the high-profile TV career that was stopped in its tracks by the allegations against him.

He was sacked from his job as co-host of Granada's This Morning programme on ITV1 after bosses said he had "failed to respond" to the allegations.

He has maintained a public silence for more than six months while awaiting the outcome of the police investigation, although he has strenuously denied the allegations.

John Leslie and Fern Britton
As co-host of This Morning, Leslie reportedly earned 250,000 a year
He has not spoken to the media and has rarely been seen in public, except in the odd tabloid photo during a night out with his girlfriend, Abby Titmuss.

As the stressful investigation continued, pictures appeared in the press of Mr Leslie seeming to have put on weight.

His solicitor spoke of how the case had taken its toll on the star.

"His life has been really a nightmare," he said.

HAVE YOUR SAY
How could Leslie get a fair trial after multiple women sold their stories?
James McNamara, London

"His job is being in the media in the public eye, and yet he's almost had to become a sort of monk.

"He's had to retire from public life whilst these police investigations went on. He's lived his life under a cloud."

Mr Leslie had been arrested on 5 December in connection with allegations of rape and indecent assault.

He was however only charged on two counts of indecent assault in June this year.

John Leslie
Leslie's story could be worth at least 1m, say publishers
His dismissal from his TV job followed allegations in the press arising from Ulrika Jonsson's autobiography - although she herself had not named him.

Although he lost a prestigious job worth a reputed 250,000 a year, Mr Leslie's financial situation could be eased by lucrative offers for his story.

The tale of his rise and fall from grace - and his very public shaming - is a valuable commodity, worth a seven-figure sum according to some estimates.

According to one report, his friends said he would sue his accusers for libel, although such actions are rare because of the high financial risks involved.

Interview rights

There is also talk of a possible autobiography which publishing experts say could provoke a furious bidding war worth at least 1m to Mr Leslie.

Matthew Kelly
Kelly has been welcomed back by Granada bosses
He has reportedly kept a video diary in which he details the stress he has endured since his arrest.

Documentary makers are likely to find the story of his plight irresistible - while newspapers would fall over themselves for an exclusive interview or the rights to any book.

Granada said on Thursday it was unlikely to rehire Leslie because he was sacked for failing to respond to questions about his private life at the time.

"On John's departure we had no choice but to establish a new presenter line-up for This Morning," a Granada spokesman said.

"The presenters work very well together and have proved very popular with viewers. We don't propose changing that."

However showbusiness manager Jonathan Shalit said Mr Leslie deserved the chance to make a comeback.

"He has been tried by the media and a whispering campaign, and by people who could not substantiate their claims," he said.

"The whole thing was very murky and very unpleasant and he should never have been treated in this way."

He needs to get the very media who helped to damage and destroy him, to help rebuild his career
Max Clifford, publicist
Mr Shalit said he would advise Mr Leslie not to sell his story to a newspaper as this could antagonise rival media and prompt a further campaign against him.

Publicist Max Clifford agreed, saying: "He's got to win the hearts and minds of the British public and that's going to be an uphill struggle.

"An exclusive deal with Express Newspapers...is a fundamental mistake.

"He needs to get the very media who helped to damage and destroy him, to help rebuild his career - and that means all of them."

His solicitor, Paul Fox, said: "He's been out of his job for eight months and it's never going to be easy (to return).

Neil and Christine Hamilton
Neil and Christine Hamilton endured "humiliating" publicity
"But people want him back in the job he does well, which is presenting on television."

Anthea Turner - like Mr Leslie, a former Blue Peter presenter - also said she also hoped he would now be able to rebuild his career.

Mr Leslie is not the first well-known TV personality to have experienced the public glare of sex allegations, only to be cleared a few months down the line.

Stars In Their Eyes host Matthew Kelly had been arrested in January over allegations of child sex abuse, but was cleared by police the following month.

Falsely accused

In May Granada announced Mr Kelly would be returning to the prime-time Saturday show to host three celebrity editions.

Former MP Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine were arrested in August 2001, falsely accused of raping Nadine Milroy-Sloan.

They were cleared after an 18-day investigation, and this month Milroy-Sloan was jailed for three years for perverting the course of justice.

Mr Hamilton later described the "horrible" experience of being arrested and the "humiliating" publicity which followed.

Mr Hamilton told the BBC he hoped Leslie would be "covered with sympathy in the court of the public".

Mr Leslie, making an emotional address to journalists outside court on Thursday, was unable to say whether he could come back from the ordeal.

"Who knows?" he said with a shrug. "You tell me."

By the evening of the day the charges were dropped it was announced he was considering a 1m offer from Sky to host a prime-time talk show, among other offers.

Maybe it will not take him so long to return to work at all.




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