Scowcroft tells of his arrest torment

EXCLUSIVEBy Jonathan BarnesFORMER Ipswich Town star James Scowcroft has broken his silence about the nightmare he endured in Spain after being falsely accused of serious sexual assault.


By Jonathan Barnes

FORMER Ipswich Town star James Scowcroft has broken his silence about the nightmare he endured in Spain after being falsely accused of serious sexual assault.

The Suffolk-born striker, 28, expressed his relief last night after criminal proceedings against him, relating to an alleged attack on three women in La Manga in March, were dropped.

Three of his Leicester City team-mates - Paul Dickov, Keith Gillespie and Frank Sinclair - were facing charges of rape.

Scowcroft and four other players, including Ipswich Town loan defender Matt Elliott, were released on bail.

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The club had been on a mid-season training break at the Spanish resort when the allegations were made.

Scowcroft, who was ordered to pay 20,000 Euros (£13,330) bail on his release, said: “I could not have been more innocent if I tried. It was just bizarre from start to finish.”

The striker told the East Anglian Daily Times he had not even left the team's hotel on the night of the alleged assault, had gone to bed at 11pm without touching a drop of alcohol and had never seen the women who had made the accusations.

He was picked out as one of the “attackers” from his passport picture - which had been taken nine years ago - and thought the whole experience, which involved being handcuffed and locked up, was “so bizarre it was almost funny”.

Scowcroft, who grew up in Stanton, near Bury St Edmunds, decided to speak out on the ordeal after officially hearing he was in the clear.

“The hardest thing was that we had to keep quiet. I'm glad it's over, but it should not have happened - there are a lot of angry people at Leicester,” said the former Blues favourite.

The star, who left Ipswich Town for Leicester in a £3million deal in 2001, said the team had arrived at their hotel in La Manga at about 10pm on Monday, March 1.

“One group went out to have something to eat and myself and three or four others stayed in and had something to eat at the hotel,” he said.

“We'd played Wolves the weekend before and my ankle had swollen up. Micky Adams (the Leicester manager) said he would see me first thing in the morning to see if I could train.

“I went to bed at 11pm - the same time as my room-mate, Billy McKinlay - and was asleep by midnight.”

Scowcroft said the squad had trained the following morning and had later been called into a room where a Spanish policeman had been waiting for them.

“He said three girls had gone into a police station and accused eight players of whatever. Everyone had to hand their passports in - nobody understood what was going on,” he added.

The former Thurston Upper School pupil said some of the players had had an idea who the women could be and stayed behind to answer more questions.

Scowcroft left the meeting, but had a nasty shock after training on the Wednesday.

“There was a knock on my door and I was told I had been picked out by the women from my passport picture. I thought 'You are joking me'. That picture is nine years old - I'm 18 on it.”

Confident the misunderstanding would be cleared up, Scowcroft and the others attended a local lawyers' office and were originally told only those men who had seen the women would have to testify.

But the goalposts were moved and all the players picked out were told they would have to face a judge - and Scowcroft learned he was facing charges of breaking and entering, not helping a victim and a serious sexual assault.

“We were taken in one-by-one to the police station and told about the charges,” he recalled.

“We sat around hoping we could get a judge to sit that afternoon, but news came back saying he couldn't get a babysitter, so we had to spend a night in custody. It wasn't funny anymore and was starting to get really serious.

“There were four of us in one cell and four in another. We were each given a mattress and a blanket and told we would be taken to court at 10am. We knew that word would get around and we would be headline news.”

The following day the players were handcuffed, taken to court and put up, one-by-one, before a judge in Cartagena.

“I told them I was in bed at 11pm and my room-mate could testify to that. I had eaten at the hotel - a waitress could confirm that - and I had rung up for a wake-up call. But I don't think any of this was ever checked out. There was no ID parade, nothing,” said Scowcroft.

The players were at the courthouse all day and were eventually told at 11pm that two players would be released - Danny Coyne and Nikos Dabizas.

“The rest of us had to spend another night in jail and give evidence the next day. There were six of us all in the same police cell,” he added.

Scowcroft was told the next day he would be freed on bail, but learned to his horror that three of his team-mates were still being held.

“It was horrendous - no-one had done anything. It was completely bizarre. I was told I had to pay bail and I was in my hotel room when it was supposed to have happened,” he said.

“In truth, I got out by the skin of my teeth. The girls had made a serious accusation against me, saying I was in the room when it happened.

“Their description of me didn't match up, otherwise I would have spent another week in jail. At times it was almost laughable, but I never panicked - I knew I was completely innocent.”

Having paid the bail money, Scowcroft flew home to a media storm. “It was unbelievable and some of the things written about us were just rubbish and very hard to take,” he said.

“The media reaction was like something I had never experienced before in my life, it was incredible. It was big news in Spain too.

“We could only tell our family and close friends what had happened and they found it bizarre. The truth was always going to come out, but it dragged on and on.”

Scowcroft said several of the players involved were keen to pursue legal action and added his lawyers were examining the case. “I'll be sitting down and discussing it with them,” he added.

The striker was unable to speak with his family, who live in the Bury St Edmunds area, throughout the Spanish ordeal.

“Micky Adams kept them in touch with what was going on. They were not too concerned because they knew I had done nothing wrong, but after we were kept another night they must have wondered what was happening,” he said.

“The police offered us blankets to put over our heads when we came in and out of court. We had done nothing wrong, but felt it would not be nice for people at home to see us being bundled in and out - my family had to watch that.

“My son, Jody, is six and he was getting asked questions in school about it. It was something that we couldn't hide from him so my partner, Sara, said there had been an incident in Spain and daddy's helping the policeman. It couldn't have been easy for them.”

The bailed players were told to report to the Spanish Consul in England twice a month on their return, but even that was dogged by confusion.

“The Spanish Consul said it was nothing to do with them, so went to see a notary in Leicester and the papers were faxed from there,” said Scowcroft.

The player, who scored five goals in 35 appearances this season, said the incident could have been a factor in the club's relegation from the Premiership and added he was angry his good reputation in the game had been tarnished.

“People have laughed when I tell them about this - it was a complete farce. I know I'm not whiter than white, but I know the right times to go out,” said Scowcroft.

“I have always taken my career very seriously and I would never dream of doing anything to spoil it.

“I'm just glad it's over now. Their lawyers might appeal, but I'm sure nothing more is going to happen. I'm going to put it behind me and get on with my life.”

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