John Leslie condemns 'trial by media' after new rape accusation

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The Independent Online

John Leslie, the former Blue Peter presenter has denied a new rape allegation made against him, saying it is "totally untrue" and describing it as "the mother of all stitch-ups".

Mr Leslie, 43, said that, five years after similar charges against him were dropped, he was once again being subjected to "trial by media". In an emotive statement outside his solicitor's office in London, a defiant Mr Leslie said it was with "a mixture of anger and distress" that he was "forced yet again to talk about lies about my private life".

"If I sound bitter," he said, "it is because I am".

The statement was reminiscent of scenes in 2003, when he was cleared on two counts of indecent assault against a 23-year-old actress in 1997, and told by a judge that he left the court "completely innocent and without a stain on my character" – an assertion he repeated yesterday.

Despite being cleared of all charges, Mr Leslie lost his £200,000 job as presenter of ITV's This Morning, and was forced to abandon his television career.

Mr Leslie confirmed he had voluntarily attended Teddington police station in south-west London on Monday afternoon, where he had been questioned by detectives for half an hour.

He was arrested on suspicion of a crime allegedly committed in November 1995 and released on bail.

"Lies that destroyed my public career in 2003 now threaten the private life which I have been happy to lead since then,"Mr Leslie said. I am accused of attacking a person 13 years ago. I do not even know who this person is. I am asked to recall events from one night in November 1995. I defy anyone to remember what they were doing 13 years ago on a particular night". It remains unclear as to why the latest allegations have surfaced now. Mr Leslie said he had "hoped the police would be able to conduct their investigation in confidence, and that I would not be prejudged".

"Regrettably," he added, "as has happened in the past, the details of a private police inquiry have been leaked to the press and I face trial by media.

"When, I ask, is this nightmare going to end? If it is considered acceptable to launch an investigation after 13 years, then why not 20 or 30 years?" he said.

"There was open season on me in 2003. I was subjected to an eight-month police inquiry. I was pilloried in the press ... Now, five years later, it all starts again. Another person, protected by the anonymity the law gives them, is able to drag my name through the mud".

"My mother and father are beside themselves with worry. So if I sound bitter it is because I am. There is little justice and no fairness in what I and my family have been and are being put through."

His statement finished, Mr Leslie turned toward his solicitor's office, describing the allegations as "the mother of all stitch-ups".

Mr Leslie was first accused of rape six years ago when a fellow television presenter named him as the man Ulrika Jonsson claimed to have been raped by in her autobiography. No charges were made.

At the time, his television career appeared to be going from strength to strength.

In recent years, Mr Leslie has carved out a successful career as a property developer and has moved back to his native Scotland.

A TV career

1965 Born John Leslie Stott in Edinburgh.

1987 Moves to London to pursue TV career.

1989 Becomes presenter of Blue Peter and continues for four years.

1993 Begins relationship with Catherine Zeta Jones.

1994 Entertainment reporter on This Morning.

1997 Replaces Bradley Walsh as the presenter of ITV's Wheel of Fortune.

2001 Takes over full-time on This Morning. Begins dating Abi Titmuss, a former nurse.

2002 No charges brought relating to claims of rape by Ulrika Jonsson. Accused of indecent assault against a 23-year-old actress in May 1997. Charges later dropped.

2008 Accused of a sexual assault committed in November 1995.