Three Leicester players kept in custody

Three Leicester City players have been remanded in custody by an investigating judge probing an alleged assault on three women in a Spanish hotel, court officials in Cartagena said today.

Keith Gillespie, Paul Dickov and Frank Sinclair are facing charges of forced entry and sexual assault.

Three others - Matt Elliott, Lilian Nalis and James Scowcroft - have been released, but Scowcroft has been ordered to pay bail of 20,000 euros and to attend a Spanish consulate twice a month.

The players were alleged to have been involved in an incident in which a group of men barged into a hotel room in the La Manga resort and attacked the women, leaving them with multiple injuries.

At a press conference in Leicester today, the Premiership club's chief operations manager, Paul Mace, said: "The players wish me to stress to you ... that they protest their innocence most strongly."

But he announced that the allegations were viewed with the "utmost seriousness" and "no stone would be left unturned".

He said a "full internal investigation" would take place.

All six players, who were training in La Manga, were arrested earlier this week.

The struggling Premiership club had flown its players to the upmarket La Manga sports resort for a warm weather break as they prepared to battle against relegation.

The incident has thrown the club into crisis with the prospect of having to fight this season's crucial campaign without some key players.

It has also further mired the reputation of English football in sleaze and scandal.

It is believed the players were remanded after they took part in an identification process involving the alleged victims.

They now faced a prolonged stay behind bars in a Spanish jail and if convicted long sentences.

The decision to remand the players was taken by the woman investigating judge hearing the case, Pilar Perez Martin.

Scores of journalists, mainly Spanish and British, have converged on the court building but the proceedings were being conducted behind closed doors.

Two other players, Nikos Dabizas and Danny Coyne, were "provisionally released" following a hearing yesterday and were driven away in the back of an estate car, hiding beneath coats from the media scrum gathered outside the court.

A ninth player, Steffen Freund, who had also been arrested in relation to the allegations, had earlier been released from the court without charge.

The first team is not playing this weekend due to cup ties and travels to Birmingham next Saturday.

The club's chief executive, Tim Davies, who travelled to La Manga, said outside the court last night that the allegations had come as a "tremendous shock" to the players.

Club manager Micky Adams said he was "devastated" by the allegations.

The accusations centre on an alleged incident earlier this week when three women were said to have been attacked by a group of drunken players.

Staff at the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where the incident is alleged to have taken place, told police that the players had been fighting among themselves and with other customers.

They were said to have barged into a hotel room and attacked the women, leaving them with multiple injuries.

The women, thought to be of African origin, made their allegations at Alicante airport on Tuesday as they were preparing to board a flight to Germany where they live. They were persuaded by police to remain in Spain to assist the inquiry.

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