RAPE TRIAL WAS 'PAYBACK', CLAIMS TYCOON

Helping murder victim's family led to trial, claims cleared man.

A TYCOON cleared of rape claims he had to undergo the ordeal of a High Court trial as ''payback for helping a murder victim s family.

Charles Fergus has told, for the first time, how he arranged legal advice for Lawrence Haggart s grieving relatives.

His intervention came while Lawrence s brothers were under suspicion of attacking the soccer starlet at their home in Larbert.

Mr Fergus (58), of Falkirk Road, Larbert, agreed to put the Haggarts in touch with Paddy Imray his own lawyer after being approached by a relative, who was a former employee of his.

The lawyer went on to advise them while a bungled murder hunt was conducted by Central Scotland Police, and in the years since.

Mr Fergus is adamant that the advice he gave the Haggarts led to a ''blatant misuse of power by the police when they charged him over allegations of rape.

The businessman insists there is no way he would have ended up in the dock if the police had properly investigated the rape claims.

He told The Falkirk Herald: ''Since my trial I ve been tipped off that the police had me earmarked as a result of what I did for the Haggart family.

''I believe the allegations made against me created an oppportunity for payback.

Mr Fergus has called for the dismissal of an officer eventually found guilty of ''discreditable conduct for his role in the murder hunt. He was second-in-command to Detective Superintendent Jim Winning, who was allowed to retire, thus escaping disciplinary action and with a bumper pension intact.

Inspector John Bunyan, who was returned to uniform duties after a period of suspension, was the officer Mr Fergus gave a tape made of a threatening phone call before he was arrested by Central Scotland Police.

His trial heard that the message had been left by the ex-employee accused of being the ''kingpin behind rape allegations made against Mr Fergus by the man s daughter and another young woman.

Because the police were unable to return the tape to Mr Fergus claiming it had been ''lost it could not be produced as evidence in court, nor will it be available to Mr Fergus lawyers for a civil action in the Irish High Court.

Lawrence Haggart s father Larry (39), who is also in the process of suing the police, said: ''Charlie Fergus did put us in touch with a lawyer at the start. It was right at the time the boys were being questioned over and over by the police I was out of my depth.

''It could well be they got wind that he helped us out and marked his card. I d certainly believe that.

The Herald has revealed that Mr Fergus plans legal actions against both the police and the Crown Office in the wake of his trial.

He walked free from the High Court last month after being found not guilty by a majority on two charges of rape.

The jury heard Mr Fergus claim he was the innocent victim of a vendetta orchestrated by a bitter former employee.

His lawyer Paddy Imray has asked the police for a top-level probe into the way the rape claims were investigated by officers.

A spokeswoman for Central Scotland Police confirmed letters had been received from Mr Imray.

She said: ''We re making inquiries about certain issues contained therein and therefore it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.

The businessman claims he was NEVER given the chance to answer the allegations against him until he gave evidence during the trial.

After being arrested and charged, Mr Fergus was remanded in custody for more than a week.

Similar allegations had earlier surfaced in Ireland and Mr Fergus was arrested by the Garda.

But, after being interviewed at length by detectives, he was released and informed that no proceedings would be taken against him.

After the Irish police told him detectives in Scotland were making inquiries about him, Mr Fergus made contact with the force to say he was willing to co-operate with any investigation. He never heard from anyone at Central Scotland Police.

Mr Imray has told the force: ''It s our client s opinion that an efficient inquiry would have identified the relationship between him and the instigator of the complaints, thus establishing a motive which should have been fully explored.

The Herald can reveal a 250,000 court action is being raised in the Court of Session against the millionaire businessman s former colleague and his daughter.

Mr Fergus is suing for ''wholly false and malicious allegations made against him and wants compensation for the loss, injury and damage he suffered.

Meanwhile, Falkirk West MSP Dennis Canavan has also been contacted by Mr Fergus s legal representatives over the affair.

Mr Canavan, who wants an independent system of dealing with complaints against the police, said yesterday: ''I have taken the matter up with the chief constable and have asked for an investigation to be carried out into Mr Fergus complaint. On the face of it, he appears to have grounds for an explanation.