Bunhill: BA man puts his trust on the wire

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The Independent Online
ONE OF the more bizarre aspects of the BA-Virgin affair is the extraordinary suspicion exhibited by David Burnside, BA's powerful press man, towards those who regard themselves as among his closest friends.

Owen Oyston, the socialist multi-millionaire, is a pal of Burnside. They go shooting together. Oyston heard Burnside was being investigated. He knew the man, Peter Martin, who had been sub-contracted to do it by persons unknown, but not, as it later turned out, Virgin. Oyston offered to arrange a meeting for Burnside with Martin so that the BA executive could hear what was going on. Burnside, though, was suspicious - had not Oyston and Richard Branson shared commercial radio interests together? Were they not also friendly?

For the meeting, Burnside arrived wired for sound. Staff of Ian Johnson Associates, BA's security consultants, were also keeping watch. Other meetings were held and other tapes were made.

Last Thursday evening, I called Oyston to tell him of Burnside's activities. 'I was just trying to do him a good turn,' he spluttered. He couldn't say too much, though, because his dinner guest was arriving any moment. His companion was one David Burnside. It must have been quite a meal.

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