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Saturday, 11 August, 2001, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Hamiltons condemn sex assault claims
Christine and Neil Hamilton
The couple were released without charge
Former Tory MP Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine have maintained their innocence in the face of allegations of serious sexual assault.

The couple were arrested when they attended Barkingside police station in east London on Friday, and released without charge after five hours of questioning.

Mrs Hamilton, 51, described the experience as "ghastly and humiliating" and said she did not expect charges to be brought.

The Hamiltons' solicitor Michael Coleman said the couple had been questioned over accusations that they had carried out indecent acts while a rape was allegedly being committed in Ilford on Saturday 5 May.

It is mind boggling it has got this far - if they bring charges... then I'm a banana

Christine Hamilton
He said: "The details of that allegation are quite horrific" - before listing them in a frank statement described by legal experts as "unprintable and unbroadcastable".

Mrs Hamilton described the charges as a "monstrous set-up job".

Mrs Hamilton said: "We have had six policemen up to our home in Cheshire, searching our house while we've been in London and I don't know how many policemen searching our flat and they have taken our computers.

"The whole thing is just nonsense on stilts."

Mr Hamilton, 52, said: "There is no truth whatsoever in the allegations that have been made against me and my wife."

'Media strategy'

Public relations consultant Max Clifford said the claims began when a woman in her late 20s contacted him with serious allegations about the Hamiltons which she wanted made public.

When she told him about the rape allegation, Mr Clifford said he told her to go to the police.

Max Clifford
Max Clifford claims a woman came to see him with the allegations
He told the BBC he had no ulterior motives in relation to the woman's account of alleged events.

He said: "The police came to see me on 14 May and I told them everything she had said to me.

"I have no interest in the Hamiltons whatsoever."

Lawyer Mark Stephens, of Finers Stephens Innocent, said it seemed strange that the woman went to the publicist before the police.

But he said these details may have been supplied by the Hamiltons as part of a "high risk strategy" to deflect the media spotlight onto the woman, rather than themselves.

"They are effectively saying 'these allegations are so outrageous that they are incredible'," he said.

No charges

Police said a man in his sixties was arrested in June as part of the same inquiry.

He was bailed until later this month.

Mr Coleman said the Hamiltons had co-operated fully with the police and given them details about their whereabouts on the night of the alleged offences.

They have also given police access to telephone and credit card records.

The couple were released from custody without charge on police bail and will be liaising with police over next few weeks, he said.

The couple appeared on the steps of Barkingside police station with TV presenter Louis Theroux, who is making a programme about them.

'Cash for questions'

The former MP was recently declared bankrupt after he lost a libel action against Harrods owner Mohammed Al Fayed over the so-called "cash for questions" affair.

Mr Hamilton had wanted to clear his name of accusations that he had accepted envelopes stuffed with cash from Mr Al Fayed in exchange for asking parliamentary questions.

He subsequently lost an appeal against the decision and is understood to owe about 3m in legal costs.

The allegations had also effectively ended his ministerial career.

He lost his seat in the 1997 general election when the cash for questions scandal prompted former BBC correspondent Martin Bell to run against him on an anti-corruption ticket.

The BBC's Daniel Boettcher reports
"The Hamiltons were released on police bail"
Christine Hamilton
"The whole thing is just a monstrous outrageous waste of police time"
Publicist Max Clifford
"I have got no interest in the Hamiltons whatsoever"
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