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Saturday, 11 August, 2001, 18:44 GMT 19:44 UK
Al Fayed denies smearing Hamiltons
Christine and Neil Hamilton
The couple were released without charge
Harrods-owner Mohammed Al Fayed has denied suggestions by Neil and Christine Hamilton that he was conducting a smear campaign against them.

Former Tory MP Mr Hamilton and his wife were arrested on Friday over allegations of serious sexual assault, and released without charge several hours later.

The couple, who strongly deny the allegations, spent Saturday inside their flat in Battersea, south London, with hordes of media encamped outside.
Mohammed al Fayed, photographed at the Harrods sale earlier this year
Mr al Fayed denies any involvement

Mr Al Fayed's spokesman rejected comments made on Friday night by Mr Hamilton, who was reacting to the fact that the woman making the allegations had first gone to publicist Max Clifford.

Mr Hamilton, who is said to owe the Harrods boss 1.5m after an unsuccesful libal action against him, claimed that Mr Clifford worked for Mr Al Fayed.

Mr Clifford is PR manager for Fulham Football Club, who are owned by Mr Al Fayed.

But on Saturday Mr Al Fayed's spokesman said the suggestion that the Harrods boss was behind the allegations was a "totally false trail".

'Monstruous set up'

The Hamiltons' solicitor Michael Coleman said police had questioned them about claims they had carried out indecent acts while a rape was allegedly being committed in Ilford, Essex, on Saturday 5 May.

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

Mrs Hamilton, 51, said she had never even met the woman who had made the complaint, and had never been to Ilford.

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

'Media strategy'

The claims were apparently made by a woman who approached Mr Clifford.

Mr Clifford has confirmed that he was approached in May by a 28-year-old woman who had serious allegations about the Hamiltons which she wanted made public.

When she later 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 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.

Further inquiries

Police said a man in his sixties was arrested in June as part of the same inquiry, and bailed until later this month.

While the Hamiltons were being questioned police searched their London flat and their home in Cheshire, and took away computers.

Police said the couple were due to return to an unnamed police station on an unnamed date, pending further inquiries.

Martin Bell
Neil Hamilton lost his seat in 1997 to "anti-sleaze" independent Martin Bell
Mr Hamilton was recently declared bankrupt after losing the libel action against Mr Al Fayed.

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, when he resigned his trade and industry post in 1994 amid the scandal.

He then lost his seat as an MP in the 1997 general election.

The BBC's Daniel Boettcher
"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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