Tulisa slams fake sheikh's 'lies' after trial collapses
Former X Factor judge Tulisa Contostavlos said her life had been "ruined for a year" after her trial for allegedly brokering a drugs deal collapsed.
The singer issued a scathing broadside at undercover reporter Mazher Mahmood, who was the main prosecution witness, after a judge said there were "strong grounds" to believe he had lied on the witness stand and "had been manipulating the evidence".
On a day of dramatic developments, the Sun on Sunday suspended the journalist known as the Fake Sheikh amid questions over whether he could now face a perjury investigation.
Former N-Dubz star Ms Contostavlos went on trial after allegedly boasting that she could "sort out" cocaine for Mr Mahmood and put the reporter in touch with her rapper friend Mike GLC, who was also cleared yesterday despite admitting supplying half an ounce of the drug.
Ms Contostavlos had denied brokering the deal, which was exposed in the tabloid last June.
The 26-year-old could not conceal her delight as Judge Alistair McCreath told the jury trying the case it could not continue, smiling broadly before punching the air with both arms and tearfully hugging supporters after leaving the dock.
Dressed in a pale blue blazer, dark trousers and a floral shirt, she had seemed in good spirits after arriving at Southwark Crown Court, appearing confident that she would be cleared as she sat in the dock waiting for the hearing to start.
After the judge formally threw out the case, she appeared on the steps of the court and read an emotional statement.
She said: "Let me be perfectly clear. I have never dealt drugs and never been involved in taking or dealing cocaine.
"This whole case was a horrific and disgusting entrapment by Mazher Mahmood and the Sun on Sunday newspaper."
Ms Contostavlos was unequivocal in her criticism of the investigation that saw her end up in the dock.
"Mahmood has now been exposed by my lawyers openly lying to the judge and jury. These lies were told to stop crucial evidence going before the jury," she said. "This evidence shows that I told Mahmood's long-standing driver that I disapproved of drugs, which is the truth.
"It is clear that the driver was pressured to change his statement to strengthen Mahmood's evidence and to damage mine. Thankfully, the lies have been uncovered and justice has been done."
Mr Mahmood had told Ms Contostavlos singer she was being considered for a leading role in a film tipped for Oscar glory alongside possible co-star Leonardo DiCaprio.
She said: "This case only happened because Mahmood and his team tricked me into believing I was auditioning for a major movie role. They targeted me at a time when things were going badly for me and they had no mercy.
"Mahmood got me and my team completely intoxicated and persuaded me to act the part of a bad, rough, ghetto girl. They recorded this and produced this as evidence when I thought it was an audition. It was a terrible thing to do."
The collapse of the case hinged on evidence given by Mr Mahmood about a statement given to police by a driver called Alan Smith, who had picked the star up from a London hotel in May last year.
It was originally anticipated Mr Smith would give evidence that Ms Contostavlos had said she "disapproves" of drugs but "changed his mind" after a conversation with the undercover reporter, the judge said.
Giving evidence during a pre-trial hearing last month, Mr Mahmood denied discussing with Mr Smith the statement or Ms Contostavlos's comments during the car journey, the court heard.
But the judge said when he gave evidence last week after the star's trial started he "gave answers which were entirely inconsistent" with his earlier evidence.
At trial, the reporter said he had discussed what was said in the car with Mr Smith and said the driver had sent him a copy of his statement, prosecutor Tim Cray told the judge.
Mr Smith had told Mr Mahmood there was a problem with his statement in that he could not remember who had made the comment disapproving of drugs and police had "told him to leave it", the court heard.
Mr Mahmood then advised him to tell police about the problem with the statement, the prosecutor said.
It can now be reported that defence counsel attempted to have the case dismissed before the trial started but their application was rejected.
However, the judge said yesterday that "the landscape has changed" and he would not have allowed the case to continue if he had been aware of "two very important factors".
He said: "First, there are strong grounds for believing that Mr Mahmood told me lies when he gave evidence to me on June 27.
"Secondly, there are also strong grounds for believing that the underlying purpose of these lies was to conceal the fact that he had been manipulating the evidence in this case by getting Mr Smith to change his account."
The Sun later said Mr Mahmood had been suspended.