Roller Les in threat to sue police

FORMER Bay City Rollers singer Les McKeown is set to sue the police for £160,000 in lost earnings after being cleared of drug dealing.

The 50-year-old Edinburgh-born star claims he lost tens of thousands after having to cancel gigs in the US while facing the cocaine charge.

McKeown was acquitted yesterday along with ex-band guitarist Patrick McGlynn and Alistair Murray after a two-week trial at Basildon Crown Court. The former frontman of the 1970s band, which enjoyed nine UK top ten hits, said he would pursue a civil action against police because the evidence against him was "flimsy".

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McKeown, who admits to being a former cocaine user, said he celebrated his acquittal with nothing stronger than champagne.

The singer said he had always been

confident he would be found innocent but that he and his family had been through "absolute hell".

He said: "I'm considering taking a civil action against the police and in fact I'm consulting with my lawyers now. The charge was terrible and whimsical and I've had to rely on members of the public seeing through the flimsy, circumstantial evidence."

McKeown, who now lives in Hackney, added: "I've been through months of hell. I've had to sign on at the police station twice a day and the police took away my passport so I lost 160,000 of work abroad."

The singer, who is about to start a 30-day UK tour including a date at The Usher Hall, added: "My family have been strong and supportive. They know I might have my faults but I'm not involved in that kind of activity."

Despite telling the court earlier this week that he had taken cocaine two or three times a year, he said after the verdict that was in the past.

He said today: "I don't take cocaine. Even if I wanted to, I wouldn't because I can't afford, on a personal and family level, to be involved in drugs any more. I stick to the drugs the Government allows."

Cleared fellow band member McGlynn, 47, of Liberton Brae, was last night putting money on the Euromillions draw but said with his acquittal he felt like he had already won the lottery. He said: "I'm absolutely delighted. It's like winning the lottery. It has been a nightmare - my life has been turned upside down.

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"My daughter's delighted, my mum's crying. It's like being born again. Being accused of something like this was just ridiculous."

McGlynn's wife, Janine Andrews, a former model who was a Bond Girl alongside actor Roger Moore in the 1983 James Bond film Octopussy, added: "I can't believe it actually. The past nine months have been a nightmare."

Ex-Rollers manager Tam Paton said he was surprised but delighted that his former proteges had got off. "It's a wonderful result for them and I'm delighted they're cleared."

McKeown, McGlynn and financial systems analyst Alistair Murray, 36, of Somerset Place, were all acquitted of conspiring to supply cocaine in a hotel car park in Waltham Abbey, Essex, in May 2005.

Detectives and Customs officers found more than 16,000 in bundles of notes in a washbag in McGlynn and Murray's black Clio. All three men, who denied the charges, said the meeting had been set up to arrange to buy a car.

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said they were unaware of any plan to take the force to court.

He said: "If we do receive notification of such intention we will respond at that time in the appropriate manner."

Rolling along in a drug-fuelled world

HE was 17, wearing yellow skintight flares sewn by his father and beginning to make musical waves with a long-forgotten Edinburgh band called Threshold when Les McKeown got his first taste of illegal drugs, writes GINA DAVIDSON.

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Admittedly the former Forrester High pupil had been drinking and smoking on the streets of Broomhouse long before then, but it was in 1972 that he smoked marijuana for the first time.

Offered to him by bandmate Alan Wright, in McKeown's own words he "loved it". From then on, his taste for drugs was to know no bounds.

More than 30 years on and McKeown, who says he is no longer a cocaine user, found himself embroiled in another drama, this time alongside fellow band member Pat McGlynn. Both men were charged with conspiring to supply cocaine. A jury at Basildon Crown Court yesterday cleared both men of the charges.

But it wasn't until he was lead singer of the Bay City Rollers in 1973 and the band were riding high thanks to three hit singles and a number one album, that McKeown moved from marijuana to more serious drugs.

While manager Tam Paton was peddling stories that the Rollers didn't smoke, only drank milk and certainly didn't have girlfriends, the pressure of constant recording and touring was beginning to take its toll and uppers and downers began to become a way of life.

And on a tour in Australia in 1975, McKeown even drugged his fellow bandmates in a bid to spend some time alone, by sprinkling Mandrax sleeping tablets in their tea to knock them out. Not that he was alone for long - he went off to have sex with groupies.

In his autobiography he also recalls that the same year, on a tour of America, the whole band were "taking various medications to help us sleep at the right times, be awake at the right times and do everything else at the right times. For a fair wee while we'd had a stash of stuff to help us out as and when we'd needed it and now it seemed we were needing it more and more often".

He has also claimed a return trip to Australia saw fellow Roller Eric Faulkner downing amphetamines to suppress his appetite, while also taking "downers" like Secanol and Valium to help him sleep. "On April 14 that year he took an overdose at manager Tam Paton's Edinburgh home," he wrote.

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"By now pill-popping to keep us going was part of everyday life."

McKeown's drug habit developed further in 1977 when the band went to Sweden to record an album. "The best bit about making that album was watching Pat [McGlynn] and another Roller on acid," he wrote. "We'd developed a knack of smuggling drugs into countries where we didn't think it'd be easy to get what we wanted - we hid it in the tartan turn-ups of our trews and laughed about how no-one ever thought to look there.

"One night we all sat down to dinner and Pat couldnae touch his because the chicken breast was 'beating' on his plate. The next day, the other acid-ridden Roller couldnae play a note. 'My f****** guitar neck is bending!' he panicked."

Later that year, on yet another tour, the band hosted a television show in America and McKeown says that night was "one of the first times I tried cocaine". It wasn't the last. "By mid-June the Rollers were resident in Hollywood. Wherever we went, we were surrounded by opulence and big money and I was able to get an endless supply of free coke. It was everywhere and totally available," he has said.

McKeown quit the Rollers in 1978 but his drug problems were only beginning. Cocaine was being used daily and he had even tried heroin.

Speaking to the Evening News in 2003 he said: "I don't really want to tell you about the great times I had on it in case anyone thinks it sounds like a good idea. I still want it.

"The smack was after I'd left the band, but it wasn't injecting, it was smoking."

Even in 1982 when the Rollers got back together for the first time, cocaine proved to be a problem. McKeown didn't like the new songs they were recording so, high "on my good friend Charlie", he wiped the tapes.

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It was at this time that he admitted he had a coke problem. "It's enough to say that, with the support of my wife, the realisation of what I stood to lose was enough to turn things around," he has said.

Of course other ex-Rollers have also had drug problems. Ian Mitchell - who briefly replaced Alan Longmuir - and is now a US citizen and motivational speaker, quit the group after only nine months fearing for his health under the constant pressure of touring and a diet of booze and drugs. "I did the drugs and drink and got chewed, swallowed up and spat out by the industry," he has said.

Stuart "Woody" Wood, renowned as the youngest and cutest Bay City Roller, had his issues with drugs after the band split. In 1990 he was touring South Africa with his new band Passengers, spending hours a night drinking and dabbling in drugs.

Aside from McKeown though, the person most associated with the Rollers and taking drugs is former manager Tam Paton.

In 2003 his Gogarburn mansion was raided three times - each time drug squad officers recovered drugs. As a result in April 2004 he was fined 200,000 after admitting a charge of dealing in cannabis. He pleaded guilty after being caught with a kilo of cannabis resin worth 26,000 at his home.

Then in December the same year, yet another raid at his home uncovered 12,500 worth of cannabis.