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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 May, 2004, 23:48 GMT 00:48 UK
Footballer haunted by false rape claim
Frank Sinclair and Tim Davies
Frank Sinclair leaves prison with Leicester chief executive Tim Davies
One of the Premiership footballers cleared of raping a woman in a Spanish hotel room has told the BBC he fears his reputation has been permanently damaged.

Frank Sinclair was falsely accused of the attack along with Leicester City team-mates Paul Dickov and Keith Gillespie while the club was on a training break in the La Manga resort.

All charges against them were dropped last week after DNA evidence proved none of the players had had any contact with the three women who originally complained to the police.

But the trio would "always be remembered as the ones that were accused rather than the ones that didn't do it," said Sinclair, speaking in the first interview with any of those exonerated in the scandal.
I remember just lying in bed looking at the ceiling, thanking God that this has had all been sorted out
Frank Sinclair

The Lambeth-born defender told Real Story's Fiona Bruce that the one big mistake on the night of the incident was the club's failure to set its players a curfew.

"I think clubs will change the way they do things now," said Sinclair, who is currently unsigned after being dropped by Leicester at the end of the season.

"On the first night we all checked into the hotel, the managers took us to one side and said, 'Right, we're not training tomorrow, so you can have a night out and just behave yourselves.'

"If we did have a curfew we would definitely have been home a bit earlier."

He revealed that his accusers were introduced to a group of the players by another footballer in a restaurant.

Offensive remark

On returning to their hotel bar, he said, they bumped into the women again and Sinclair himself was photographed while one woman was encouraging him to dance.

Keith Gillespie, Frank Sinclair and Paul Dickov

"I hadn't really noticed the other group of people in there. I went over and said to them politely, 'Why did you take that picture?' but they said it was just a holiday photo."

A remark from Dickov then offended one of the women who, Sinclair claims, ran at the Scottish international, scratching his neck, and was pulled off by the other men.

"Paul had made a remark about the size of her backside because she had made a remark about him being a small white man."

The players then went to bed, Sinclair sharing with Gillespie and the women going to separate rooms.

He denied their claims that the players kicked their doors down.

"All that was absolute nonsense. I'm sure other people in the hotel would have heard it."

Several nights later, the rape allegations were revealed to the team by manager Mickey Adams.

Shared cell

"He told us that three girls were claiming they'd been raped and that's when I realised he was talking about us on our first night.

"I just thought it was ridiculous."

The next day, eight of the squad were called to a police station where they were arrested and put in a cell together overnight.

"It was quite shocking," said the 32-year-old. "I'd never been in prison before.

"Some people could take it a little bit easier than others but it was hard for me to deal with."

Media reaction

On the third day, Sinclair, Dickov and Gillespie were charged with "sexual aggression" - the Spanish equivalent of serious sexual assault - and kept in custody.

The other five were charged with non-sexual crimes and released. They would later be cleared.

Sangonera prison, Murcia
Sangonera prison was the subject of intense press attention
"We'd been pretty strong for each other, and then to be whittled down to only three of you left, it was hard to take. We knew we hadn't done anything."

The trio was taken to the Sangonera prison but were not, as some reports have claimed, attacked by other prisoners.

They relied on fellow inmates to translate Spanish newspaper articles to assess the media's reaction to their arrests.

After eight days in jail, the men were bailed and went through a nerve-wracking arrival at Luton airport where police escorted the trio through a side exit.

But Sinclair was impressed by the support back at Leicester City.

Exit expected

He also praised his girlfriend, Nicola Welleans, the mother of his two children, for standing by him up until the moment that all charges against him were dropped.

"I remember just lying in bed looking at the ceiling, thanking God that this has had all been sorted out and my girlfriend saying to me, 'Well cheer up will you?'"

Speaking of his subsequent departure from Leicester, Sinclair showed no suprise.

"That situation that happened in Spain along with a few injuries I'd had earlier in the season made it a total nightmare for me."

Real Story: BBC One, Monday 24 May 2004, 1930 BST and live on the Real Story website.



WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's James Munro
"Now that Sinclair has cleared his name he can begin his search for a new club"



SEE ALSO:
Leicester trio's 'delight'
21 May 04  |  UK


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