Hamilton e-mails seized for 'rape' clues
August 12, 2001
DETECTIVES investigating claims that Neil Hamilton and his wife Christine sexually assaulted a young woman are examining hundreds of e-mails sent from the couple's personal computers in search of any evidence to support her claims that she was sent "pornographic and threatening" messages.
Police have seized two computers from the Hamiltons' home in Cheshire and one used by Christine Hamilton at their London flat. They are spending this weekend combing through electronic correspondence sent and received by the couple through their e-mail address, called "britishbattleaxe".
The former government minister, 52, and his wife, 51, were arrested by Metropolitan police detectives on Friday after being invited to Barkingside police station in east London.
The couple have not been charged with any offence and have been released on police bail. They have dismissed the allegations as a "monstrous fabrication". Yesterday they vowed to prove their innocence.
"Anger stops me sleeping. I'm defiant, but I admit apprehension," said Neil Hamilton. "Who is this woman? Is she mad or bad? Is she deluded or being paid? This is either a silly mistaken-identity episode or a malicious episode."
During his hour-long police interview Hamilton was told that a woman had alleged that he and his wife had taken part in a serious sexual assault on her at a council flat in Ilford, east London, on May 5.
The woman also told police she had received a series of "pornographic and threatening e-mails". Detectives have taken possession of her computer.
A friend of the Hamiltons said: "This whole thing seems to hinge on the e-mails. The Hamiltons are quite cyberactive. They have two personal computers at their home in Cheshire, and there is one which Christine keeps in her bedroom in their London flat.
"But Neil is less cyber-literate than she is. She is the one that corresponds."
In a detailed rebuttal of the claims, Christine Hamilton said that she had never met the woman and had never been to a flat in Ilford.
"The whole thing is just a monstrous, outrageous waste of police time. It was the most ghastly, grotesque, humiliating experience," she said.
"The whole thing is nonsense on stilts. We are not expecting charges. If charges are brought, then I give up on the police."
A complicating factor for detectives is that, instead of going straight to the police, the woman first approached Max Clifford, the publicist, in what is thought to have been a bid to sell her story to a tabloid paper.
Clifford is also a public relations adviser to Mohamed al-Fayed, the owner of Harrods. In 1999 Hamilton lost a libel action against Fayed over claims the tycoon made that
Hamilton had taken cash and hospitality in exchange for asking parliamentary questions.
Sources close to Clifford said: "She was someone who the Hamiltons were allegedly trying to involve in all kinds of things that they were involved with. You're talking about swingers, parties . . . There were a couple of conversations, visits, and then she said there was this sexual assault or rape."
Clifford said he told the woman she needed evidence to support her claims. "She came back a few days later saying she had been raped at a house in Ilford. I told her to go to the police," he said yesterday.
A source added: "Max was told that the serious sexual assault was the tip of the iceberg. The rape occurred after she came to see him."
Apart from the e-mails, police say that the key to their inquiry will be the strength of the couple's alibi.
Hamilton and his wife have apparently produced diary evidence that shows what they were doing on Saturday, May 5. The former MP had appointments during the day.
During her 90-minute interview his wife described to detectives a dinner party she gave in the evening at their south London flat. "Perhaps I made jellied Bloody Marys, one of my specialities," she said.
One detective with knowledge of the inquiry said: "The Ilford team have spent the past three months looking for witnesses to corroborate the complaint. When they searched the Hamiltons' two homes they were looking for any clothing the woman had described, as well as for any phone contact and e-mails between the Hamiltons and the woman."
The Hamiltons were first alerted to the existence of the police inquiry in a call from detectives two weeks ago.
Despite the latest blow, the couple remain defiant. Speaking from their London home yesterday, Christine Hamilton said: "We are going to show the world we are innocent. We are going to crush this."
by David Leppard and Maurice Chittenden, Copyright © 2001 Times Newspapers Ltd.