Police drop Hamiltons investigation

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The most bizarre chapter in the extraordinary story of Neil and Christine Hamilton ended last night as detectives announced all investigations into sexual assault against the couple had been dropped.

The disgraced former Tory trade minister and his wife had defiantly ­ and very publicly ­ denied the allegations from the moment Nadine Milroy-Sloan, 28, accused them of sexual assault while another man allegedly raped her at a flat in Ilford, Essex.

Last night the Hamiltons said they were "delighted" to be "vindicated" by the outcome. They are already pursuing a libel action against Ms Milroy-Sloan, and are believed to be considering legal action against the police for wrongful arrest.

A statement from Scotland Yard confirmed no further action would be taken against the couple. "Following a thorough investigation the Metropolitan Police has found no evidence to support the allegations against Mr and Mrs Hamilton," it said.

"Officers are satisfied that there is no evidence to link the Hamiltons to this case and they have been released from their bail conditions. The Metropolitan Police takes all allegations of sexual assault extremely seriously and has a duty to investigate them as thoroughly as possible."

Mrs Hamilton, 51, speaking outside the couple's £1.3m Cheshire home, said: "This is wonderful, wonderful news. I never had the slightest concern we were going to be utterly vindicated. I said when we were arrested on 10 August that if they brought charges then I was a banana and I am not a banana, so I never really expected them to go on with this." She claimed the whole case had brought the police into "disrepute".

"It is just such a scandalous waste of public time and money that it has taken four months to find there was no evidence against us. It was an outrage that we were arrested in the first place."

Mrs Hamilton said the last few weeks had been the worst of her life. She added: "I have no feelings about Miss Milroy-Sloane. Max Clifford ­ well, I think my husband described him as lower than vermin and I would concur with that."

Mr Hamilton, 52, speaking outside the London office of his solicitor, Michael Coleman, said: "We are pleased the cloak of suspicion has now been removed but still angry we were put in this position in the first place." He added: "We want to have a bit of a post mortem about the events of the past few weeks and I will do that in the company of my solicitor."

However, he said a High Court libel action the couple had launched against Ms Milroy-Sloan would go ahead.

Max Clifford, the publicist to whom Ms Milroy-Sloan, a mother-of-four, had turned before going to the police, said: "Nadine is devastated and she has just told me that she stands by everything she told the police."

Mr Clifford blamed the Hamiltons rather than the young woman ­ who renounced her right to anonymity and spoke to a Sunday newspaper ­ for bringing all the publicity on themselves. "They have obviously enjoyed the circus and they have made it into a circus," he said. "All she wanted was justice. I'm very upset obviously for Nadine. She's sobbing on the end of the phone."

The whole affair erupted almost three weeks ago when the Hamiltons were arrested and taken to Barkingside police station for interview before being released on bail.

They immediately reacted with public anger, taking the BBC documentary maker Louis Theroux with them to the police station and later releasing tapes of their interviews to a Sunday newspaper. They provided police with a detailed account of their movements on the day in question, 5 May 2001. The pair had left their Battersea flat to shop in Chelsea before meeting friends for drinks at Claridges and hosting a dinner party. Diana Rasbach, one of the guests at that party, said last night: "Of course I am thrilled for them after all the strain." Police said that the Hamiltons' co-accused, Barry Lehaney, 61, who also protested his innocence, remained on bail. Detectives said inquiries would continue into other aspects of Miss Milroy-Sloan's allegations.