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FERGIE SEX ATTACK PROBE; Sir Alex denies girl's assault claim.

Byline: ANNA SMITH

SOUTH African police are to quiz Sir Alex Ferguson over claims that he indecently assaulted a woman who gave him a lift from a nightclub.

The 21-year-old claims the Manchester United boss touched her leg in the early hours of yesterday as she gave him a lift to his hotel in Cape Town, where he is on football business.

Sir Alex, a married multi-millionaire, strongly denies the claims.

Captain Sipho Sikwebu, the investigating officer, said: "The woman alleges that he asked her for a lift as she got into her car.

"She alleges he touched her leg as they drove to the hotel.

"She says she told him about her boyfriend but he allegedly insisted and carried on touching her leg."

The woman, Nadia Abrahams, told police she had seen Sir Alex earlier in the day signing autographs at a shopping complex.

Captain Sikwebu added: "It is alleged he went to a nightclub in the area and the incident happened some time after he left.

"The woman has given a statement and more witnesses will be interviewed."

The officer said he had told Fergie's lawyers he would be interviewed. But he added that the former Aberdeen and Scotland coach was free to leave the country.

Miss Abrahams, a computer software technician, went to a police station at 8.30am yesterday.

She claimed she met Sir Alex at Mannenburg's jazz club when the club's boss introduced them.

Fergie had arrived at about 9pm and allegedly spent around four hours drinking red wine.

Miss Abrahams is understood to have described Sir Alex as "very, very friendly", but added that he had been friendly to everyone.

Clarence Ford, managing director of Manenbergs, said: "Sir Alex was bombarded by a whole load of fans.

"I was amazed at his patience because there were throngs of people wanting photographs and his autograph and he obliged very happily. It was a happy occasion.

"If I can remember correctly, Nadia mentioned a lovers' quarrel with her boyfriend on the night."

Miss Abrahams claimed that when the club closed at 2am, Fergie climbed into her car outside after pulling up in another car driven by his lawyer, Alex Abercrombie.

She claims the United boss then asked her to drive him to his hotel.

The woman, described as "pale and petite" by friends, says he asked her into the hotel for coffee. She says he then put his hand on her leg.

Miss Abrahams told police she called her fiance, Brian Ebden, who arrived to take her home.

Mr Ebden said he called Sir Alex yesterday morning to demand an apology. He claims the Scot refused and that was when he and his fiancee decided to go to the police.

Mr Ebden said: "Ferguson denied everything categorically and said Nadia was drunk. If he had apologised and said he had been drinking then, at the worst, we would have accepted that. But he was totally obnoxious."

A police report will go to prosecutors on Monday. They will decide whether to press charges.

Mr Abercrombie said Fergie was "most upset" at the claims. He added: "The allegations are blatantly false. He would be very surprised if there are any charges.

"There is no warrant for his arrest. This matter is a minor one.

"Alex is most upset. He is very concerned, not about the allegation itself, but the publicity and that his family has got to get involved.

"He is obviously concerned about the image of Manchester United."

The lawyer added that Fergie was planning to leave South Africa tomorrow night, as scheduled.

His wife Cathy was said to be "shocked" at the allegations. It is understood that she was with him in Cape Town when news of the complaint to police broke. Mr Abercrombie said the couple were confident the scandal would die down.

But he added: "Alex is not overly concerned about the allegation itself. He's more concerned about the problems that his family are facing - the embarrassment, the image of the club and that kind of thing."

A spokesman for United refused to comment on the assault claims.

Fergie is in South Africa scouting for players. He is understood to have travelled as scheduled yesterday on club business to Johannesburg.

He was knighted in 1999 after winning the Champions League. He has a passion for horseracing and owns a half stake in pounds 35million thoroughbred Rock of Gibraltar.
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Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Oct 12, 2002
Words:734
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