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Saturday 19 August 2017

Weeks before decision made over Jeremy Clarkson's Top Gear future in punch-up row

Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Clarkson

Top Gear star Jeremy Clarkson - and the show's fans - could be left in limbo for weeks as the BBC gathers evidence for an internal disciplinary inquiry.

It is understood that not all the potential witnesses to what the BBC branded "a fracas" have yet been contacted ahead of the hearing.

The programme's stars - Clarkson and co-hosts James May and Richard Hammond - are still scheduled to appear at four live shows in Norway on March 27 and 28 and a decision on whether to go ahead is expected early next week.

All three men's contracts expire three days after the Norway gigs, which could render any disciplinary hearings redundant.

The last three episodes of the series have currently been put on hold.

READ MORE: Jeremy Clarkson: 'reported himself to bosses' over Top Gear fracas with Irish producer

The process was begun by Clarkson, who told his bosses at the BBC about the row which led to his suspension.

The row, which has drawn in the Prime Minister, the director-general of the BBC and led to more than 800,000 people signing a petition to save his job, was over an alleged punch thrown at producer Oisin Tymon, when the presenter thought he could not have a £21.95 hot steak.

A family who witnessed the row said Clarkson was staying at the Simonstone Hall Hotel near Hawes in North Yorkshire and went into the bar at around 9.30pm after a day of filming last Wednesday.

READ MORE: Jeremy Clarkson faces sack after 'punch up' with TV producer

Bob Ward, 60, from Leeds, told Sky News the star refused to have a selfie taken with him, saying: "No, not with the day I have had."

His wife Sue claimed Clarkson then said it was "ridiculous there was nothing to eat" and she said he thought his colleague had not done his job properly.

"Obviously there were lots of expletives in between all this," she added.

She said Clarkson told his colleague "he would see to it that he would be losing his job".

The fracas was described as just "pushing and shoving" by a source in the Sun newspaper.

The Top Gear star has attracted high-profile support, with David Cameron calling him a "huge talent" and saying he hoped the situation could be resolved so his children would not be left "heartbroken".

BBC director-general Tony Hall has also said he was a "fan" of Clarkson, but added that allegations of a fracas were "serious".

The BBC disciplinary panel will be led by Ken MacQuarrie, the head of BBC Scotland who carried out the investigation into Newsnight's false expose of Lord McAlpine.

A lawyer for Mr Tymon said his client "intends to await the outcome of the BBC investigation and will make no comment until that investigation is complete".

Clarkson himself has joked about his position, telling reporters he was "just off to the job centre" and later changing his Twitter profile to read: "I am probably a presenter on the BBC2 motoring show Top Gear."

The BBC owns the rights to the Top Gear brand, which is valued at £50 million, and includes the show, DVD rights and live shows, raising the prospect of Top Gear continuing on the BBC while Clarkson takes a similar show to one of its rivals.

Star of BBC satire W1A Hugh Bonneville paid Clarkson a back-handed compliment by suggesting he would be welcome on the show, which pokes fun at the corporation.

Speaking at the Broadcasting Press Guild (BPG) awards, the actor said: "He's at the centre of British culture. He's the storyline that keeps on giving."

The BBC has apologised to viewers who complained about the postponed Top Gear episodes.

It said it had "received a wide range of feedback about this and some people have expressed their disappointment or have asked for more information".

It went on: "We do hope you'll understand that we value this reaction, but the investigation is still under way. Until more is known, we're therefore unable to say anything further in response and will not yet be making further statements about the issue.

"We realise you'll be disappointed that we can't respond to you in any more detail but thank you for contacting us."

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