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The cloak and dagger bid to trap Sheridan

A tabloid newspaper editor stripped to his boxer shorts to obtain information about Tommy Sheridan as he wanted to correct the “grave miscarriage of justice” of the former MSP’s £200,000 libel damages win against his newspaper, a court has heard.

Bob Bird, 53, editor of the Scottish News of the World, denied in evidence to the High Court in Glasgow that his newspaper had a vendetta against Mr Sheridan and said there was a huge public interest in exposing the lies he told during the 2006 civil case.

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Mr Sheridan and his wife Gail are both accused of lying under oath in court. They deny all charges against them.

The court heard that Mr Bird had a telephone conversation with an unnamed man about a week after the verdict. He went to the Pollok area of Glasgow in a “cloak and dagger” operation to meet the caller, who told him he had something that could prove that Sheridan had lied during proceedings.

He was directed to the home of George McNeilage, who asked him to take his clothes off so he could check for wires.

The editor said: “McNeilage said, ‘Do you know who I am?’. He said, ‘I am Tommy Sheridan’s best man’, at which point my blood ran cold because I thought Tommy Sheridan was going to burst into the room with a video camera.”

Mr Bird told the court that he then sat in his boxer shorts watching a film allegedly made by Mr McNeilage, which he claims captures Sheridan confessing to visiting a swingers’ club.

The accused, who is representing himself, asked Mr Bird under cross-examination if he was under “any particular pressure” from his bosses after his newspaper’s defeat in the case. Mr Bird said he was under no pressure at all.

Sheridan put to the witness: “You would walk through a housing scheme that you had never been to and strip to your boxer shorts?”

Mr Bird said: “I was keen to get a grave miscarriage of justice corrected, which had happened the week before.”

Sheridan asked the editor why he did not disclose to the defence and the prosecution that he had paid Mr McNeilage, a Crown witness, £200,000 for his video. The accused had been forced to take legal steps to obtain details of the sum paid, the court heard.

The witness claimed the paper had a duty to Mr McNeilage, given that a confidentiality agreement was in place.

Sheridan put to Mr Bird it was “unbelievable” that he could stand in the witness box and suggest he could not foresee Mr McNeilage being called as a Crown witness, then asked him why he thought it was in the public interest to publish the content of the tape.

Mr Bird said: “The public interest was that it proved that you stood in court and lied. It proved to my mind that 18 people who had given evidence on our behalf had been wrongly labelled as liars; it proved that they had been telling the truth.

“We were exposing you. There was a huge overriding public interest.”

Sheridan put to Mr Bird: “Is it a vendetta?”

Mr Bird said: “In court, you fraudulently won £200K damages by standing there lying. People who voted for you deserved to know what you were like.”

The court earlier heard Mr Bird gave an untrue statement during the 2006 action when he said that Katrine Trolle, a witness who claims to have had an affair with Sheridan and to have visited a swingers’ club with him, had not been offered payment from the newspaper for her story. Mr Bird described it as a “genuine mistake”.

Fiona McGuire, who claimed to have had a four-year-affair with Sheridan, was paid £20,000 for her story and given a holiday to Dubai by his newspaper, Mr Bird confirmed.

The court heard that the News of the World also offered two more Crown witnesses, Anne Colvin and Helen Allison, a total of £10,000 each for their stories on Sheridan.

Sheridan later put to the witness: “You just lie and your paper goes out to destroy people’s lives. You pay huge amounts of money for kiss-and-tells.

“One obvious advantage is once a kiss-and-teller can smell big money, they are prepared to say anything.

“That’s what happened with George McNeilage, Anne Colvin, Helen Allison and Fiona McGuire. They smelled the big money and they were prepared to say anything.” Mr Bird said that was not the case.

Witness calls Sheridan ‘pure delusional’

A TRADE unionist who has known Tommy Sheridan since he was a young boy was examined by the accused in court yesterday.

William Moore, 66, right, said Sheridan had been secretly taped by George McNeilage because people in the Pollok community had wanted to meet him.

Mr Moore recalled a conversation with Mr McNeilage.

“I said, George you are like brothers, you have a meeting with him. One time I said ‘have you seen him yet?’ and he went ‘Aye, I’m going to have a meeting with him’ and I says ‘I’m wanting to know word for word what the bastard’s got to say’.”

Sheridan accused Mr Moore of discussing his evidence with Mr McNeilage.

The witness replied: “I don’t tell porkies Tommy, you know that.”

Sheridan continued: “You are here because you don’t like me?”

Mr Moore replied: “Correct, Tam.”

The accused said the witness had described him as “a little s**t” and was motivated by “hatred” to lie about him.

Mr Moore, who said he watched Sheridan play football as a boy with the accused’s mother and father, also denied the claim that the tape had been fabricated.

“There’s nae made up tape, it’s you,” he said.

Sheridan said: “You saw a tape in 2006 because George McNeilage made a tape with other members of the Scottish Socialist Party in 2006.”

Mr Moore, who earlier told the court the tape was made in 2004, said: “Tommy, you are pure delusional son.”

The trial continues.

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