27 Jun 2009

Bastearaud won't be charged over false assault claim

6:35 am on 27 June 2009

French rugby player Mathieu Bastearaud will not face police charges despite falsely claiming he was assaulted while in Wellington last weekend.

The 20-year-old issued a statement on Thursday, saying he stumbled and fell over in his hotel room after drinking too much. He suffered a cut to his cheek.

He said he was too ashamed and panicked to admit that to team management.

The incident followed France's 14-10 defeat to the All Blacks on Saturday in Wellington in the second Test between the teams.

Five detectives have spent the week sifting through CCTV footage and speaking with witnesses, and have concluded that no assault took place. He will not face charges of wasting police time.

Inspector Pete Cowan says Bastearaud has been seen to be a liar and the matter is now closed.

The French Rugby Federation has apologised to New Zealand and confirmed that Bastearaud will face disciplinary action.

Bastareaud says he wants to apologise to the New Zealand Rugby union, the city of Wellington, the French team, his club, and his friends.

Members of the French team in Australia to play the Wallabies flatly refused to answer any questions about the assault at a news conference in Sydney on Friday.

Bastearaud statement

"On Saturday evening, I went back to the hotel after drinking too much.

"I fell into my room, struck the table and opened the cheekbone. I was ashamed, I panicked and I thought that I would be expelled from the French team.

"I told this story thinking it would pass, but given the scale (of the story), I want to tell the truth. I did not want to offend my family. I panicked and I'm depressed."

Waste of resources - police

Wellington Police Area Commander Peter Cowan told Morning Report that police on Thursday informed the New Zealand Rugby Union the story was pure fabrication.

"Mr Basteraud hasn't come out overnight and apologised out of the goodness of his heart.

"This has been a strategy from us and the New Zealand Rugby Union have been strong supporters and assisted us in this."

Mr Cowan says Bastareaud was shown clearly walking into the hotel uninjured at 5.22am on Sunday, and entered his room 25 minutes later. What happened in that 25 minutes is open to speculation, he says.

He says the player has wasted an enormous amount of police resources this week.

Mayor outraged

Wellington mayor Kerry Prendergast told Morning Report the false attack claim had the potential to damage the city's reputation.

She accused others in the French team of being involved in the cover-up, as Bastareaud was sent home so quickly.

Ms Prendergast says she is outraged and believes Wellington and the country deserve an official apology.

Formal apology

New Zealand Rugby Union chief executive Steve Tew says the union shares the concerns of the Wellington mayor and police over the incident and will be talking further with the French Rugby Federation.

The manager of the French team, Jo Maso, has issued a formal apology to the New Zealand authorities.

"We defended our player but unfortunately he lied to everybody," he said.

French Rugby Federation president Pierre Camou says he has asked the Federation's disciplinary committee to open an inquiry.

Mr Camou issued a statement apologising to the people of New Zealand, and acknowledging the hurt that New Zealand and the wider rugby world would have felt by the player's initial claims.