When Harry Redknapp walked out of Southwark Crown Court for the last time yesterday he left behind him the most extraordinary corruption trial in English football.
There was tension, laughter and frayed tempers. There was an insight into the vast amounts of money earned and squandered at the elite level of the English game. There was one of the Premier League's most famous managers out of his comfort zone in an unfamiliar, intimidating environment. And there was a bulldog called Rosie.
Having dominated the headlines after the first day, Rosie was never far away from the court's thoughts. On the ninth day of the proceedings, Redknapp, into his second day of an uncomfortable cross-examination from the prosecution counsel John Black QC, briefly – unexpectedly – formed an unlikely double act with his adversary.
Why, Mr Black QC asked after hours of painstaking detail on the Monaco account "Rosie47" named after Redknapp's late dog Rosie, had Redknapp not simply named it "Rosie"? Why add the last two digits of the year of his birth? Redknapp, for whom recall of detail had been problematic for much of his evidence, answered surprisingly succinctly, "Because there was another Rosie account [at the bank]."
Mr Black QC, a courteous if somewhat leisurely interrogator, unexpectedly picked up the baton. "Perhaps named after someone else's dog?" he suggested. "Could be," replied Redknapp. "Could be someone else's wife. If she was half as nice as Rosie was, then he would have had a good wife."
It was at times such as these that you had to remind yourself of the severity of the charges against Redknapp and the implications that a guilty verdict would have for his career, not to mention the accompanying prison sentence.
Redknapp himself could not stop being Harry Redknapp simply because the law dictated it, although for much of the trial he looked a changed man. Nevertheless, on transfer deadline day last Tuesday, he was spotted on his mobile in the dock just moments before the judge, Anthony Leonard QC, was due to come back in. The signing of Louis Saha can wait for no man.
Only after the first day's hearing did Redknapp behave as he would in the aftermath of a game, stopping to chat to reporters in the corridor outside the courtroom. The day after Spurs beat Wigan 3-1 on 31 January he held up his fingers to indicate the score to his co-defendant Milan Mandaric who was on the other side of the courtroom waiting to give evidence. Then, smiling, he did the same to indicate the score in the 1-1 draw between Sheffield Wednesday – Mandaric's club – and MK Dons.
Those few moments aside, Redknapp looked anxious and tense as he followed the arguments closely with the grim intensity of a man who knew everything was at stake. The case pitted him not against his fellow working-class-boys-done-well whom he faces on a weekly basis in the dug-outs, rather he was up against the learned, precise men of the law shaped by the British public-school system and the country's great universities. At one point, Redknapp, outside the court, was heard to express bewilderment at these exotic figures in wigs and gowns. "They're so polite and well-mannered," he said of the prosecution, "and then suddenly they try to kill you."
Redknapp's defence was effectively that he was chaotic, impulsive, profligate, disorganised, forgetful and at times helpless amid the requirements of living his life away from his one field of expertise on the football pitch. A man who said he could scarcely write and required the help of his accountant Malcolm Webber – often mentioned but never called to give evidence – even to pay his domestic bills. But that did not make him a man who fiddled his taxes.
In fact, it was Redknapp's cavalier attitude to money that was used as a bulwark against the inconsistencies in his evidence. Here was a man who earned more than £4m on a three-year contract. Who did not realise he had gone 18 months unpaid for a newspaper column. Who never knew he was due a £500,000 bonus from Spurs for qualifying for the Champions League. Why would he cheat the taxman?
Why would Redknapp "ruin" his life – his word – to save the tax on £189,000? Especially, his defence argued, when he had divulged the very existence of the account to the Quest investigators.
The defence's major obstacle was Redknapp's News of the World interview with Rob Beasley in February 2009, which was taped without his knowledge, subsequently seized by the City of London police and played to the court. In it, he said time and again that the money in the Monaco back account was, exactly as the prosecution maintained, a bonus payment on the profits of Portsmouth's sale of Peter Crouch in 2002.
Redknapp's defence counsel, Mr John Kelsey-Fry QC, had tried to get the "Beasley tape" – as it came to be known – thrown out before the case but was overruled. The recordings made by Beasley, now at The Sun, had been seized by the police more than two years earlier and, when called to give evidence, he tried to make the point that he had been given little time to re-acquaint himself with the transcripts.
Mr Kelsey-Fry launched a full-out attack on both Beasley and his now-defunct former newspaper. He landed a number of blows, most notably when he asked the reporter three times whether he had ignored the usual rules governing a criminal investigation to conduct a "satellite investigation" of his own with the intention of obtaining different information to the police. Each time Beasley gave a different answer.
When it came to Redknapp's time in the witness box, he struggled with the chronology of complex, often overlapping details and events that spanned almost 10 years, and as a result he fell headlong into a couple of traps that Mr Black laid for him.
That was complicated by the fact that, on the first of the two days on the stand, Redknapp allowed himself to be distracted by the presence of Detective Inspector David Manley of the City of London police, leading to the dramatic moment when he accused the detective of staring at him from the prosecution benches on day eight of the case.
To say there is bad blood between the pair is an understatement. Manley had led the officers who raided Redknapp's house in Poole, Dorset, in 2007 and, in Redknapp's words, "terrified" his wife Sandra. Manley stayed silent in court but did not appear the slightest bit embarrassed by his part in this sideshow. When he was asked by reporters to confirm his name afterwards, he simply replied by giving the number of the City of London police press office.
Manley was there for the verdict yesterday and even accepted Milan Mandaric's handshake. Seasoned watchers of the City of London police noted it was telling there were no more senior officers in attendance during the two weeks.
However, on the day of that first cross-examination by the prosecution, Redknapp was, to borrow an image from football, like a team holding on for dear life and praying for half-time to give them the chance to reorganise. His concentration was gone, especially when he was asked to explain why, having maintained that he did not know how much money was in the Rosie47 account, he had told Quest investigators in 2006 that he thought it held around £120,000.
On his second day of giving evidence, Redknapp was more composed and allowed Mr Black's accusations of greed and falsehood to wash over him. He had previously been given a textbook demonstration of how to give evidence by Mandaric. Declining the judge's offer of a seat, the 74-year-old was cross-examined over three days, all the way politely rebuffing the prosecution's accusations of wrongdoing.
At one point during his evidence, Redknapp was so eager to explain he thought "Rosie47" was a codeword to give him remote access to his account, he inadvertently divulged the real codeword for his UK bank account. The next day he explained that he had been called that morning by his bank who had been horrified to read his codeword – his mother's maiden name "Violet Brown" – in the newspapers and instructed him to change it immediately.
Those moments of farce did nothing to diminish the drama of yesterday's verdicts just before midday. In the moments preceding the verdict, Redknapp kept his anxiety well hidden and when the verdicts were read out he stepped from the dock where his son Jamie put an arm round his shoulders and gently steered him through the crowd.
The Redknapps went back through the grim institutional corridors of the court for the last time before making their final exit. It had been in those corridors after the first day's hearing that Redknapp had told a few of us that Rosie had died some time ago. It would be fair to say she has had rather more fame posthumously than she ever did chasing seagulls on Sandbanks.
Bourt key players
John Black QC
Led prosecution in both tax evasion trials. Notably roused Redknapp to anger after he accused him of telling a "pack of lies" during his evidence about Monaco bank account.
John Kelsey-Fry QC
Acquittal of Redknapp marks another successful case for Kelsey-Fry. Acted on behalf of jockey Kieren Fallon in successful defence against race-fixing charges in 2007.
Lord Ken MacDonald QC
Represented Milan Mandaric. Highlighted his client's business acumen, and the tens of millions he had paid to the taxman.
Loyal son who stayed at his accused father's side
When Harry Redknapp stepped out of the dock for the last time it was his younger son, Jamie, who was waiting to take him away from Southwark Crown Court for good.
Jamie, 38, the former Liverpool captain, sat through every day of the trial, leaving early just once, to fulfil his duties for Sky Sports at Manchester City's game at Anfield. He attended most of his father's legal meetings and the pair stayed together at a hotel in London for the duration of the trial to ensure they were on time each day.
As the jury left, Jamie smiled at them; as a man who has a very close bond with his father, the case appeared to have taken just as much of a toll on the son. There were moments when Harry struggled under cross-examination, or when he talked about his background in a "poor family from east London", that Jamie lowered his head to disguise his emotions. Harry's elder son, Mark, and wife, Sandra, have not been in court.
Jamie has said before that, when he was a child, Harry would occasionally allow him to skip school so he could accompany his father to training. Three decades on, the pair were inseparable through the biggest ordeal of Harry's career.
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