Sunday 23 April 2017

Louis Walsh's accuser wanted €1,500 to tell his 'story'

'I did it because there were mad things going through my head'

Leonard Watters leaving court with his
solicitor, Cahir O'Higgins
Leonard Watters leaving court with his solicitor, Cahir O'Higgins
Louis Walsh
CCTV footage from Krystle nightclub

Convicted liar Leonard Watters, who made bogus sex assault allegations about X Factor judge Louis Walsh, made his first apology just days after the story hit the papers but then rescinded it, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

In a series of bizarre contacts, the false accuser approached this newspaper within days of the story breaking to offer his first and unreserved apology to the pop mogul.

But later, before it could be published, Watters retracted.

Speaking on July 8, Leonard Watters' initial approach showed he had an interest in earning money from his "account" of what happened in Krystle nightclub, asking: "how much is the inside story worth?"

When told that the Sunday Independent does not pay for stories, he continued to haggle: "€1,500 for the full exclusive story".

He went on: "Can you arrange with your editor to sort even a third of the price?"

Eventually, with no payment to him agreed, the Navan man did sit down with me to retract the allegations he had made against the pop impresario.

"I want to apologise for not being truthful. I want to put my hands up and apologise to the man," he said.

He added: "I want Louis Walsh to get his good name back. I know sorry is only a word but deep, deep down I really am. And I feel like it's a weight lifted off my shoulders now."

At the time of the interview, Mr Walsh had spoken publicly of his utter devastation at the allegations and how he felt almost suicidal.

Watters expressed his regret at the impact of his allegations on the X Factor judge.

"It makes me feel disgraceful more than anything. Because I wrecked a man's reputation," he said.

The 24-year-old man went on: "I am a father of two children and I should have had more sense.

"I don't want my children when they're older looking down on me. We all make mistakes in life but I know that this was a big, big mistake."

He added: "I didn't know what the consequences would be if it was a false [statement]."

Watters also described at the time how he intended to write a personal letter of apology to Louis Walsh to tell him of his regret.

"I apologise to the man and I will forward a letter through the gardai to Mr Walsh to tell him how sorry I am. I'll sit down some evening and whatever is in my head I'll write down on paper."

Speaking about the night in question, he also explained how Louis Walsh had shown him kindness when a bouncer to the club refused him entry:

"I walked up from a bar in the city to Krystle with about 12 friends," he said.

"When I walked in, the bouncer refused me. So when I was walking away Louis put his hand on my shoulder and said 'No, he's with me' and he brought me in."

Asked what possessed him to make the false statement about the Westlife manager, Watters said: "I just did it because there were mad things going through my head at the time."

He explained: "It just snowballed on me.

"It's a weight lifted off my shoulders now. I want Louis to get his good name back. I am really sorry."

Asked if he was fearful about the then pending court case, he said: "Of course I am worried about what's going to happen but I'm going to have to deal with the consequences when they arise.

"There is no point twisting it or fighting this to the ground when I know the man is innocent," he said.

However, for legal reasons, the Sunday Independent was unable to publish Watters' apology before the trial had taken place. But just two weeks later, on July 21, Leonard Watters again contacted the Sunday Independent -- this time to retract his original apology before going to court.

He said: "Cancel the story, I'm pleading not guilty. Why should I plead guilty when I'm innocent?"

A week later, on Saturday, July 30, Watters jumped off a 30ft bridge in his local town. Just minutes before he jumped, at 2am, he texted me to say: "Leonard here, went on a bender. Chat to you soon."

At the time, the significance of that text was not obvious.

He was pulled out of the river by paramedics who were called to the scene at Kentstown Bridge in Navan, Co Meath.

Afterwards, he told tabloids he did it "because the pressures of the past four months had become too much for him".

Last Friday week, as his day in front of the judge neared, Watters again contacted this newspaper.

He wrote: "I'm writing to you on the story I gave you. I would like to say it was all false. I was not in the right frame of mind talking to you. And I have a doctor's report stating this. So therefore I would like to cancel the story and I would be grateful if your paper didn't print this or any other paper.

"When I was talking to you in July I will repeat I was not in the right frame of mind and I LIED. I have forwarded this email onto my lawyers."

But last Wednesday, the Navan man, when brought before the judge in court, confessed, saying: "I made it all up."

Confirming the initial account he gave to the Sunday Independent last July, he said he wanted to sincerely apologise to Mr Walsh for what he had put him through.

He said the allegation he made against Louis Walsh was false. He agreed with his solicitor, Cahir O'Higgins, that he categorically withdrew the allegations and that he was completely wrong about Mr Walsh.

He also pleaded guilty to two counts of making false reports to gardai.

Judge Dermot Dempsey said he was commissioning a probation and welfare report on Watters.

He said he was considering a custodial sentence, giving regard to the gravity of the matter.

The maximum sentence for each charge in the district court is a fine of €634 and/or 12 months in prison.

Earlier the court heard that on April 9 this year, Watters had been socialising with friends in Dublin and met Mr Walsh and others.

They later went on to Krystle nightclub on Harcourt Street. At around 4am, Leonard Watters approached a garda on the beat on Harcourt Street and made the allegation of sexual assault.

He was taken to the Mater Hospital to be examined, repeated the allegation to a nurse and doctor there and repeated it again to gardai at Mountjoy garda station.

He made two statements to gardai, one on June 20 and one on June 27.

During the course of the second statement, he was told that CCTV footage from the nightclub did not support his allegation and he admitted that it was false.

He will be sentenced on January 25.

Louis Walsh was not available for comment.

Sunday Independent

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