A COUNCIL official who won £180,000 in libel damages from a national newspaper over untrue claims he was a ‘fixer’ for paedophile cab drivers has spoken of rebuilding his ‘ruined’ life.

Wajed Iqbal, from Nelson, said his family and his Muslim faith got him through a 32-month ordeal during which he considered taking his own life after the Mail on Sunday falsely linked him to the Rochdale grooming scandal in May 2017.

The paper’s publisher Associated Newspapers made a public apology in the High Court for the article headlined ‘Scandal of the minicab predators’ which also made false claims about his role in the reissue of a South Ribble taxi licence to a driver found guilty of assaulting a profoundly-autistic child passenger.

The 44-year-old, the younger brother of Pendle Council leader Cllr Mohammed Iqbal, said the article cost him his job, his marriage and access to his four sons for two years.

Now remarried to Sigita-Aisha and working on a temporary contract in the licensing department of Blackburn with Darwen Council, he said: “It ruined my life.

“After the article was published it was very dark time. I lost my job, lost my marriage and couldn’t see my sons. There seemed to be nothing left.

“Taking my life seemed an option, but my family and my faith saw me through.

“I had to keep working and did temporary jobs in Lancaster, Wrexham, London and Bolton and borrowed money from my family and friends.

“Now I am concentrating on rebuilding my life. My contract in Blackburn ends in March so fingers-crossed it is renewed. I would like to be the manager of a whole licensing department. That is my passion.

“People have said 'why don’t your retire and put your feet up'? But I want to keep working. I am good at what I do.”

Mr Iqbal, born in Yorkshire, has lived in Nelson since 1979 and was educated at Primet High School and Nelson and Colne College.

He said: “The Mail on Sunday saw my British-Pakistani heritage and the word Rochdale, put two and two together, and made five.

“They didn’t think someone from Nelson in East Lancashire couldn’t take them on. But I did and I won.

“Associated Newspapers did not want to make the public apology in court. It embarrassed them but it was essential for me. It gave some closure.

“I can now pay back some of the money I borrowed and I went on a holiday to Bali.

“I can forgive them but not forget. That is what my Muslim faith teaches me.”

Mr Iqbal added: “Now I can spend time with my sons, who I did not see for two years which was hard for me and for them. We are all Liverpool fans so it is pretty enjoyable this season.”

Cllr Iqbal said: “I am delighted that my brother has been vindicated.”

Mr Iqbal said: “The allegations were totally untrue. I was junior licensing officer in a big department in Rochdale.

“I hate and despise child abusers. They make me feel sick.”

At the High Court hearing in London, Mr Iqbal’s barrister William Bennett QC told Mr Justice Soole: “These allegations were false. They have caused huge and continuing distress to Mr Iqbal.

“Nevertheless, Mr Iqbal is satisfied that the defendant has come to court to offer its sincere apologies to him for making the allegations complained of and to acknowledge that they were false.”