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Friday, 8 June, 2001, 12:51 GMT 13:51 UK
Athlete's ex-lover jailed
Chris Cotter graphic
Chris Cotter had denied staging the attack
The former boyfriend of Olympic athlete Ashia Hansen has been jailed for two years for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in relation to a bogus race-hate attack on himself.

But Chris Cotter, 29, was cleared of trying to sell the story to a national newspaper.

He had denied conspiring to pervert the course of justice by falsely representing to West Midlands Police that there was a racially-motivated conspiracy to commit violent acts on black athletes and their immediate associates.


I'm relieved that I can put this whole nightmare behind me and concentrate on my athletics career

Ashia Hansen
He had also pleaded not guilty to attempting to obtain property by deception by trying to sell the account of the attack to The Express newspaper.

Cotter's friend, Surjit Singh Clair, 31, a sales rep from Reedswood, Walsall, was found guilty of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and also attempting to obtain property by deception from The Express.

Trio jailed

Heating engineer Craig Wynn, 29, of Kingstanding, Birmingham, was found guilty of conspiring to pervert the course of justice but was acquitted of attempting to obtain property by deception.

Clair and Wynn were also jailed for two years.

Clair was given an additional 12 month consecutive sentence for the attempt to obtain property by deception conviction.

Ashia Hansen leaving court
Court told of "obsession" with Ashia Hansen
The three men were convicted and sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Friday.

Passing sentence, Judge Robert Orme told them: "The three of you not only entered into that conspiracy ... but you played the race card.

"In other words you falsely introduced a bogus, racist motive to attack Mr Cotter and try and make the attack look more convincing because it was, in my view, something which would be likely to make it the more credible and more believable at a time of great public sensitivity and awareness of such issues.

'Obsessed'

"It is the worse in your case, Mr Clair, you had the motivation to sell the story to the press and make a significant personal profit."

Speaking after the case, Ms Hansen said: "I'm relieved that I can put this whole nightmare behind me and concentrate on my athletics career."

Craig Wynn
Craig Wynn was acquitted of seeking money from a newspaper
The jury at Birmingham Crown Court had heard Cotter, a financial adviser who now lives in Plymouth, Devon, fabricated the attack outside Ms Hansen's Birmingham home to rekindle his romance with her and sell his account of it to help pay off debts of 25,000.

The defence had maintained the attack, in which Cotter was stabbed three times in the back and slashed across the forehead, was committed by a gang of men who objected to his relationship with a black athlete.

The prosecution told the trial Cotter had hoped the attack would rekindle his relationship with Ms Hansen with whom he was "obsessed".

Hate mail

But Cotter denied he was obsessed with her or that he stood to gain from any earnings the athlete would have made had she won gold in the Sydney Olympics and said his debts were manageable.

He also denied knowing Clair had leaked the attack story to the press until all three were on remand in Birmingham's Winson Green prison.

Sanjit Singh Clair
Cotter called Clair just before the alleged attack
The court was told the trio had orchestrated the sending of racist hate mail to Ms Hansen, four other prominent black British athletes, including Olympic heptathlon gold medallist Denise Lewis, and a backbench Labour MP.

The letters were a sham designed to give more credence to the attack.

Handwriting experts found the letters' likely author was Clair.

There was also no record of the racist group WANO, said to have been responsible, either before or after the attack or sending of the letters, said the prosecution.

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