Air steward drops case against F1 boss

McLaren chief wrongly accused of homophobia and racism at tribunal
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The Independent Online

A former air steward who accused the McLaren boss Ron Dennis of being racist and homophobic was forced to offer the Formula One chief an unreserved apology yesterday after admitting his allegations were unfounded.

Peter Boland, 27, from Stowmarket in Suffolk, worked for Mr Dennis on his private jet for five years before being dismissed in May 2007. He claimed at an employment tribunal that he had been victimised and discriminated against by Mr Dennis.

Mr Boland told the Southampton tribunal he had been sacked after false rumours circulated that he was gay, and claimed Mr Dennis once washed his hands after saying he had been "shaking hands with Arabs all day".

During the hearing Mr Dennis, who brought Formula One's first black driver Lewis Hamilton to McLaren, denied the allegations and said they were "tantamount to blackmail". He accused Mr Boland, who was suing for £100,000 on the grounds of victimisation and unfair dismissal, of lying and trying to damage his reputation.

Mr Dennis, who sat through hearings at which intimate aspects of his private life were placed under scrutiny, said he washed his hands frequently because he was obsessed with hygiene and was constantly travelling.

He said he had sacked Mr Boland after he fell asleep on duty and was rude to guests on the jet, once talking "in grunts" to a member of the Bahrain royal family during a flight in 2007.

He also said Mr Boland drove him "absolutely crazy" by packing his own snowboard in the plane's hold during a trip to Colorado, forcing guests to store their own luggage in the cabin.

A source close to the case told The Independent that Mr Boland decided to withdraw his accusations yesterday, after being informed that his former job had been filled by an openly gay man, Jamie Siggs, an appointment which Mr Dennis approved. Rather than witness his case collapse at the hearing, Mr Boland chose to read out a surprise statement of apology.

"I unreservedly apologise to Mr Dennis and all respondents, and to the Southampton Employment Tribunal, for wasting their time with what I now realise were unfounded allegations," it stated. "In particular, I apologise to Mr Dennis for suggesting that he is, or was, either racist or homophobic, or that he ever made any remarks or performed any actions that would suggest that he was. I feel great remorse for the upset that I now realise I have needlessly caused to him, to his family and to his colleagues."

Mr Boland would return his Mercedes company car, which had been the subject of county court proceedings.

Mr Dennis said: "Clearly, I and all at McLaren, and all the other respondents, have been totally vindicated by the complete and unequivocal withdrawal and unreserved apology by Peter Boland... This case has been hurtful, irritating and unnecessary."

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