Relief and anger after ex-Wigan Council boss retracts statement to end massive police investigation into opposition councillor and activists

The three political figures who had been under investigation
The three political figures who had been under investigation

A marathon police investigation into three opposition political figures has ended after a former council boss retracted her statement.

Hindley Green independent Coun Bob Brierley and former elected representatives Peter Franzen and Robert Bleakley have all been told no further action is being taken against them after between 12 and 20 months under suspicion without a single charge being brought.

Other news: Drug and alcohol support staff return to picket line at start of three-day strike as pay dispute escalates

Allegations against the three men were made by Donna Hall when she was chief executive at Wigan Council.

However, Wigan Today has now seen the statement in which Ms Hall withdrew her allegations, although she defended the accuracy of what she had told officers.

In the document she said: “I have discussed retracting my statements on numerous occasions with the police and I have been given the opportunity to consider this, it is not a decision I have made lightly.

“I have the support of a great family and partner and I know that I am making the right decision for me.”

Former Wigan Council leader of the opposition Mr Franzen was investigated on suspicion of stalking following the police receiving a report of harassment while Coun Brierley was arrested on suspicion of stalking, criminal damage and breaching data protection and Mr Bleakley faced accusations of stalking and criminal damage.

However, the investigation ending without a single charge being brought after a year and in one case more of probing has led those involved to launch stinging criticism, questioning the resources and cash allocated and why it took so long to reach this stage.

They have robustly denied any wrongdoing throughout the entire episode.

Mr Franzen, who previously led the Community Action Party (Cap) in the borough, was the first to be arrested in a dramatic early-morning swoop on his Golborne home in January 2018.

Following the police’s decision to take no action against him Mr Franzen gave a scathing assessment.

He said: “On October 4 2019, 20 months after my arrest, the case against me was suddenly dropped without explanation or apology.

“No evidence has ever been provided for the false and malicious allegations against me.

“The campaign against former and present opposition councillors has cost local taxpayers money.”

Coun Brierley suggested that after such a laborious investigation coming to nothing allegations of wasting police time should now be made.

Mr Bleakley, who was arrested last October at the same time as Coun Brierley, accused Ms Hall of targeting “outspoken present and past opposition councillors” with the allegations, which he also said were “false”.

A statement issued by GMP said: “A 60-year-old arrested on Friday October 19 2018 on suspicion of stalking, breaching data protection and criminal damage has been released with no further action.

“A 49-year-old man arrested on Friday October 19 2018 on suspicion of stalking and criminal damage has been released with no further action.

“A 71-year-old man arrested on Friday January 26 2018 on suspicion of stalking has been released with no further action.”

A Wigan Council spokesperson said: “The council notes the outcome of the investigation.”