Ex-RUC police officer apologises for role in Chelsea racism row in Paris
A former policeman who is one of three men sought in connection with an alleged racist incident involving Chelsea football fans on a Paris Metro train has apologised for his involvement.
But Richard Barklie, 50, insisted he is not a racist.
The ex-Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) and Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officer, from Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, is currently a director with a human rights organisation - the World Human Rights Forum - and has also worked supporting victims of the Troubles.
The Chelsea season ticket holder is one of the three men whose images were released by Scotland Yard as part of an investigation into a group of supporters who allegedly pushed a black man off the train and chanted a racist song in the French capital on Tuesday.
The incident happened ahead of Chelsea's Champions League clash with Paris Saint-Germain, which ended 1-1.
Footage posted online showed the commuter - named in reports as Souleymane S - being pushed back on to the platform amid chants of ''we're racist, we're racist and that's the way we like it''.
Tonight, Mr Barklie issued a statement through his lawyer in which he admitted involvement in an "incident" that resulted in Souleymane S being "unable to enter part of the train".
He said he had an account he wanted to provide to police that would explain the "context and circumstances".
Mr Barklie denied singing any racist songs; said he travelled to the game alone; insisted he did not know any of the other individuals captured on video footage of the incident; and said he has never been part of any "group or faction" of Chelsea fans.
The statement was issued by Belfast solicitor Kevin Winters.
"We act on behalf of Mr Barklie identified as one of the people sought by authorities investigating an incident on the Paris Metro on 16/2/15 ," it said.
"We contacted London Metropolitan Police today to advise that our client is happy to assist with inquiries.
"Pending formal engagement with police, our client is anxious to put on record his total abhorrence for racism and any activity associated with it.
"As someone who has spent years working with disadvantaged communities in Africa and India he can point to a cv in human rights work which undermines any suggestion he is racist.
"Today a senior official in the World Human Rights Forum confirmed their support for him.
"Mr Barklie is a Chelsea season ticket holder and has travelled to matches for over 20 years now without incident.
"He travelled alone to the Paris St Germain match and has no knowledge whatsoever of the identities of the other people depicted in recent YouTube video releases. He wants to stress that he was not and never has been part of any group or faction of Chelsea supporters.
"He did not participate in racist chanting and singing and condemns any behaviour supporting that.
"He accepts he was involved in an incident when a person now known to him as Souleymane S was unable to enter a part of the train.
"He has an account to give to police which will explain the context and circumstances as they prevailed at that particular time.
"In the meantime pending that, he wants to put on record his sincerest apologies for the trauma and stress suffered by Mr Souleymane.
"He readily acknowledges that any judgement on the integrity of his apology will be kept in abeyance pending the outworkings of the investigation.
"Given the extremely sensitive nature of the issues engaged we urge upon all media outlets to exercise as much restraint as possible when commenting on the case.
"We accept on behalf of our client that public interest demands nothing but total indignation and condemnation from all media reporting but such reporting ought not to persist at the expense of undermining Mr Barklie's right to a fair trial
"Tonight London Met confirmed with us that arrangements were in hand to take the investigation to the next stage."
The WAVE Trauma Centre, which supports victims of the Northern Ireland Troubles, tonight said it had suspended a part-time worker pending further investigation into the Paris incident.
"As this matter is subject to an investigation by the Metropolitan Police it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage," said a spokesman for the charity.
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said the three men had now been identified and the force was liaising with the French authorities.
None of the men sought by Scotland Yard have been arrested.
A police spokesman said the force cannot arrest people for offences which happen outside the UK but "a number of people" have now been spoken to in relation to the incident.
Five people have so far been suspended from Chelsea's Stamford Bridge ground following investigations into the incident.
The club has reiterated its promise to ban for life anyone proved to have been involved in the altercation and is helping police in the UK and Paris.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said the club are "appalled" by the racial abuse, adding that owner Roman Abramovich is also "disgusted".
Meanwhile, police are seeking a gang of men, believed to be Chelsea fans, who were heard shouting racist chants at London St Pancras station on Wednesday evening.
A member of the public reported the men, who had travelled by train from Paris Gare du Nord, British Transport Police (BTP) said.
It is believed they were returning home after attending Chelsea's match with PSG.