A FORMER Premiership footballer claims a newspaper defamed him by falsely saying he was linked to Dublin gangland figures and crime.
David Speedie (55), who played for a number of top English clubs in the '80s and '90s, including Liverpool and Chelsea, says he was disgusted and humiliated by two articles in the Sunday World in April 2011.
The articles falsely claimed he was linked to mobster Fat Freddie Thompson, damaged his reputation and lost him work as a football pundit on Irish television and radio, he claims.
He also says the articles caused him to be depressed and frightened for his life to the extent that he moved back to his UK home in Doncaster. He says he decided to return to Dublin because he missed his fiancée, Margaret Grey.
The publishers of the paper, Sunday Newspapers Ltd, editor Colm McGinty, and the journalist who wrote the story, Mick McCaffrey, deny defamation.
They say the articles are true in substance and fact and do not mean what Mr Speedie claims they mean.
Mr Speedie's fiancée is a sister of a woman married to Ritchie Thompson, Freddie Thompson's older brother, a High Court judge and jury heard.
Mr Speedie claims the first article, on April 10, 2011, headed 'Kops and Robbers', meant he was engaged in criminal activity, was involved in smuggling or transportation of drugs and had links to gangland crime.
A second article, on April 24, following a solicitor's letter to the paper, was headed 'Speedie the Snake' with a photograph of him handling a large snake at a birthday party. He claims this meant he was a snake and a reptile and that he had no cause to be upset about the previous article.
Opening the case, Mark Harty SC, for Mr Speedie, said the first article stated he had been "associating with known gangsters", had been stopped frequently in Dublin by detectives and his car was seized on one occasion because duty had not been paid on the English- registered vehicle.
It stated Mr Speedie had been drinking in a Dublin pub in March 2011 when Ritchie Thompson had his leg broken in an attack while his [Thompson's] wife was slashed.
The story quoted Mr Speedie, who is also a former Scotland international, as saying he was not involved in crime, had no criminal convictions and insisting he was harassed by gardai because he was going out with a sister of the woman married to Ritchie Thompson.
He denied in the story he ever met or associated with Freddie Thompson and said the family association had nothing to do with him. The story also said he was quizzed by detectives "trying to keep a lid" on a gangland feud in the Crumlin/Drimnagh area which had claimed 16 lives.
Mr Harty said despite receiving a solicitor's letter inviting the defendants to "set the record straight" after the first article appeared, the Sunday World published the 'Speedie the Snake' article.
"He is seeking substantial damages not simply to compensate him for the defamation but to vindicate his reputation," counsel said.
Mr Speedie, who has a house in Courtown, Wexford, and also lives in McDonagh House, Golden Lane, Dublin, with his fiancée, said he never said, or could not recall, much of what had been quoted by him in the first Sunday World article.