FREELANCE journalist Andrew Rosthorn is at the centre of a row between two national Sunday newspapers over his investigations into the Oyston scandal.

The Sunday Times alleged that witnesses in the recent trial had been "subjected to improper approaches" and detectives had interviewed at least two journalists over attempts "to pervert the course of justice."

Mr Rosthorn, who lives in a cottage at Tockholes, was not named but this weekend Sunday Business said that the Sunday Times' allegations referred to him.

Editor Tom Rubython wrote that "Rupert Murdoch's flagship newspaper is today embroiled in a scandal that threatens to rival the debacle of the Hitler Diaries."

He said a man had alleged that he had been approached by a journalist and offered £50,000 to testify in favour of Oyston, who is now serving six years for rape.

Mr Rosthorn, who used to work for the Lancashire Evening Telegraph and the Daily Mail, said today from his holiday yacht off the Welsh coast: "Detectives have certainly not interviewed me. I have been investigating Owen Oyston for nearly ten years. I have nothing to hide." He admitted trying - unsuccessfully - to contact one of the alleged rape victims, but said he had done so at the request of the News of the World.

The girl had immediately contacted the police and a senior officer, Detective Superintendent Bill Roberts, head of the Oyston inquiry, had phoned Mr Rosthorn.

"It was a friendly, inquisitive call," Mr Rosthorn said.

He had already checked with the News of the World and said wryly that he was sorry I'd had a wasted trip. I laughed and said it wasn't wasted - I'd still get paid for going.

"As for the suggestion of a £50,000 backhander - it's nonsense."

Mr Rosthorn has spent nearly a decade investigating and writing about Oyston and his business deals for a variety of newspapers and magazines.

When they actually met for the first time a few months ago, Mr Rosthorn corrected the tycoon's recollection of an incident in his life many years ago.

"Of course," said Oyston with a smile. "I forgot that you know more about me than I do myself."

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