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Top Rugby League clubs were last night on full security alert after a giant stalker launched a campaign against young players.

Strapping stars at Warrington Wolves and Oldham Bears are living in fear of 6ft 5in bodybuilder Akinwale Arobieke.

Arobieke - dubbed Purple Akie - has been accused of waging a vicious vendetta against the tough heroes.

A warning has now been issued to all 12 Super League clubs. Police have also been informed,

Warrington chairman John Smith said: "I am worried that unless something is done soon somebody is going to get hurt.

"This man's a menace. He has an astonishing ability to get hold of players' addresses and phone numbers and they just don't feel safe."

A sinister harassment campaign, which began three years ago, included:

ATTACKS on players' houses.

VANDALISM to cars.

VIOLENT threats to stars, many still teenagers.

Arobieke has got into grounds with a Press-type pass, although not a journalist.

He has also been seen loitering around stadia in flash hire cars waiting for teams to leave after matches or training.

Ten years ago the 35-year-old was convicted of the manslaughter of a teenager, then cleared on appeal.

`He's made our lives a misery'

Terrified Gary Kelly, 16, died after crawling on a live rail line while allegedly fleeing from Arobieke.

A court heard that the teenager was petrified of him and had complained to police of harassment.

Arobieke is believed to be of Nigerian extraction and was nicknamed Purple Akie because of the darkness of his skin.

Rugby chiefs are worried about the welfare of some of the game's brightest prospects.

Youngsters who've been bothered include Warrington first team players Warren Stevens, 18, Chris Holden, 20, and reserve Liam Bretherton, 17.

Oldham back Jimmy Cowans, 21, has also complained to his club.

Arobieke once lifted 6ft, 17-stone prop Stevens off the ground, threw him over his shoulder and did squat exercises with him.

Bretherton has had a brick hurled through his window. Holden's car was damaged.

Cowans was told a letter bomb would be pushed through his front door and three cars were paint-stripped outside the home of Oldham's safety officer, Roger Norris.

The game's bosses are so worried they are urging certain players to carry mobile phones at all times.

Mr Smith, 57, said: "Arobieke is a very intimidating man - he is absolutely huge.

"These lads are young, fit and strong and you would think they could look after themselves. But they are all very scared.

"Sometimes he tells them to meet him and when they refuse he starts calling at their houses."

Oldham chairman Jim Quinn has contacted Super League supremo Maurice Lindsay to warn of the threat.

In a confidential message he wrote: "We feel all clubs should be made aware of this problem and put on their guard and report to the police any sighting or contact."

Mr Quinn was reluctant to discuss the matter but is known to have invited Arobieke to his office to listen to his grievances.

Mr Quinn told The People: "This man is a complex character. He accused some players of racial behaviour and making gestures to him.

"I told him we would not tolerate that sort of thing at this club."

The mother of one player too frightened to be named said: "He's made our life a misery. The police told us we were just one of at least 30 families who have been hounded.

"He is telling players who reject his advances, `You don't know what you are getting into'.

"He is a total bully but the police are finding it impossible to pin anything on him." Arobieke got pounds 35,000 compensation in 1989 after a Home Office investigation into the Gary Kelly tragedy ruled there had been "racial overtones" to the case.

The trial in 1987 heard he had a liking for young boys and enjoyed groping their biceps and thighs.

Birkenhead schoolboy Gary was allegedly indecently assaulted and subjected to a reign of terror before his death.

Arobieke was sentenced to 212 years jail but freed by the Appeal Court.

Judges accepted Gary was scared by the former cleaner but ruled his fear was no grounds to claim Arobieke had committed an unlawful act.

Inspector Julie Clayton, of Cheshire Police, said: "Warrington Rugby League Club have reported some areas of concern regarding players being followed. That is being investigated."

`I will not stop going to games'

The Great Manchester force, which covers Oldham, said: "We are asking anyone with any complaint to contact us and the matter will be fully investigated.

"We're aware of damage to a vehicle but there is no evidence to suggest Akinwale Arobieke is responsible."

Stalking will be outlawed under the Protection from Harassment Bill currently going through Parliament. It could be passed by Easter.

Arobieke, who is based in Toxteth, Liverpool, said yesterday: "I've had problems with Oldham over racial abuse and I took appropriate action.

"It won't be happening again. If you were being racially abused, would you leave it at that?"

He added: "I have got friends at Warrington and if people are saying these things about me, let them write it down or say it to my face and I will take the appropriate action.

"I am a fan of rugby and I'm not going to stop going to games.

"Nobody has been able to get any evidence against me for anything."

Asked about a Press card, he said: "I have not got a Press card. I have got a researcher's card."
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1997 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Author:Myller, Rolf
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Mar 16, 1997
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