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Paper caught in gambling fraud prints false results

THE METROPOLITAN Police and senior staff at the Racing Post were trying to work out yesterday how - and by whom - the results of four greyhound races were deliberately altered before they appeared in Monday's edition of the newspaper.

The changes were part of an attempted betting fraud that might have earned as much as pounds 50,000 for those involved. Although it was only partially successful, at least one betting shop manager has learnt the hard way that you should not believe everything you read in the papers.

The four races involved took place at Reading and Yarmouth, two of the country's smallest greyhound tracks, on Saturday night. The correct results were transmitted to the Racing Post by the Press Association on Sunday morning. When they appeared in the following day's edition, however, the names of three of the winners had been changed. The starting price of a fourth, a hot favourite at 11-10, had been altered to a far more rewarding 3-1.

Since the closure of the Sporting Life on 12 May, the Racing Post is the only readily available source of information from the more obscure corners of the betting world.

Bets involving the four rogue winners, including several linking them in rolling accumulators with total odds as high as 199-1, had been placed on Saturday evening at a number of betting shops. Most were in east London and Essex, including branches of William Hill, Coral and the Tote, but a few found their way to a betting shop in Humberside.

The Racing Post, complete with its false results, arrived at the betting shops on Monday morning, and so did several punters hoping to collect their "winnings". For various technical reasons, several bookmakers were suspicious of the bets.

Before long, the Betting Office Licensees' Association, the major bookmakers' trade organisation, had been alerted, and a warning was issued that bookies should suspend payments on bets involving the races. The Racing Post informed the Metropolitan Police of the situation, and an investigation into possible deception began.

A number of the hopeful punters were told that insufficient funds were available to pay them and were asked to return later. None of them did.

Payment of all bets would have cost the Tote about pounds 20,000 and Jennings, an Essex betting shop chain, pounds 18,000. A William Hill outlet paid pounds 200 on one bet before payments were suspended, while Coral handed over a similar amount, but the biggest loser appears to have been the Ted Hornby betting shop in Withernsea, near Hull.

A pounds 10 treble, apparently due a return of exactly pounds 2,000 at odds of 199- 1, was paid out at the shop on Monday morning. "The bet itself wasn't unusual," Janet Alexander, the manager, said yesterday. "What was unusual was that the three dogs copped at such big prices, but there was no reason to think there was anything untoward.

"How on earth anyone has managed to come as far as Withernsea with a scam like this is incredible. We're the last thing here before you fall into the North Sea."

The police inquiry will start in the Post's offices, but such is the integration of the computer systems of all the newspapers based in Canary Wharf tower in Docklands, east London - including The Independent - that it may be that anyone on one of several floors could have altered the relevant files on Saturday evening.

Both the Post and the police, however, will be hoping that their investigation does not take the same path as that which followed a similar case - the Trodmore Hunt coup - which took place exactly 100 years ago this month.

The Sporting Life was persuaded to carry the card for a fictitious race meeting, and then the "results", which were supplied from the same source the following day. A number of bookies paid out substantial bets on the races that never took place - and those involved were never caught.