19 APRIL 1997, Page 29

Out of character

Sir: I am writing on behalf of Mr Victor Herman, who has on occasions helped me, voluntarily, by playing the bagpipes at func- tions that I have organised for students here. I always found him sober, well-man- nered and good-natured, and the descrip- tion of him as a 'nasty man' (and a violent one) in 'Low life' (18 January) does not accord at all with my own impression of him.

Mr Herman helps his ex-wife run a restaurant in New Cross, and it was one of the customers there who drew his attention to the offending article. The relevant pas- sage reads: I always remember being in the Strand Cor- ner House one night when a small nasty man and his followers came in and sat at the next table. He was Vic Herman, and earlier that evening he had won the world flyweight box- ing title. You would have thought that after such a fight he would have cleared the air a little, but he started an argument with a pros- titute and hit the girl so hard she flew across the next table. Charming.

Before coming to see me, Mr Herman wrote a letter about these remarks, in which he said:

The alleged incident about myself is fictitious and defamatory. If necessary I could call on prominent sporting journalists to testify that it is untrue.

I have never struck a prostitute, nor have I in any other way been representative of Lon- don's 'low life'. Nor did I ever win the world title. I was Scottish flyweight champion.

Mr Bernard's memory regarding personal- ities and events of nearly half a century ago seems to be playing tricks with him, perhaps aggravated by his drug habit at the time, self- confessed in the same column.

In response to questioning by me, Mr Herman admitted that he had, on rare occasions, had a meal at the Strand Corner House, but never with 'followers'. To the best of his knowledge he does not know Mr Bernard. He never went out, alone or with `followers', after a fight. It was his practice after fights always to go straight home to his wife and (later on) his child. In other words, apart from his being (physically) a small man who has been to the Strand Cor- ner House, the part of the article that refers to Mr Herman comprises lies from begin- ning to end.

I have to say that I find it astonishing that a responsible journal like The Spectator should print such clearly defamatory mate- rial without checking first on the facts (with, even, Mr Herman, whose name and number appear in the telephone book). This article has obviously caused great dis- tress to Mr Herman.

Eric Crowther

Student Counsellor, International Students House, 229 Great Portland Street, London W1