Alleged fraudster proclaims innocence

LANGUISHING behind the bars of a German jail, Peter Murray Cowan today proclaimed his innocence in the face of multi-million pound fraud charges. The former prospective Suffolk councillor, of Sirdar Road, Ipswich, has written to the Evening Star from his police cell determined to clear his name after being arrested in Germany.

LANGUISHING behind the bars of a German jail, Peter Murray Cowan today proclaimed his innocence in the face of multi-million pound fraud charges.

The former prospective Suffolk councillor, of Sirdar Road, Ipswich, has written to the Evening Star from his police cell determined to clear his name after being arrested in Germany.

Police in Bavaria found Murray Cowan, of Sirdar Road, Ipswich, on October 29, 2002 sitting in his Audi car, which allegedly contained pirated software.

The car allegedly contained 4,000 CDs, apparently bearing the program Microsoft Office 97, worth about £1.3m on the retail market according to Microsoft.

The 40-year-old claims they were genuine discs and denies they were pirated copies.

Murray Cowan's four-page hand-written letter said all his requests to get the seized software examined by an independent expert, have been refused.

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He jumped bail from Ipswich Crown Court, after appearing there in September 2001. Not guilty pleas to 12 charges of possessing and trying to sell computer software bearing a logo identical to Microsoft's, were entered on his behalf after he refused to plead.

His extradition to Britain is currently being pursued by trading standards officers at Suffolk County Council. It is the first time a local authority trading standards department has made such a move.

Since his capture, Murray Cowan has been arrested on suspicion of similar charges in Germany and it is likely a court case will be heard there before he stands trial in this country.

A spokeswoman for trading standards in Suffolk said: "The German authorities will have the opportunity to pursue the case first, since he is in their custody."

Murray Cowan once stood as a Tory candidate for Chantry and Stoke Park in the Ipswich borough council elections of 1999.

Peter Murray Cowan: The story so far…

In September 2001, Murray Cowan appeared at Ipswich Crown Court and denied 12 charges relating to possessing and trying to sell computer software bearing a logo identical to that of Microsoft.

After refusing to enter pleas to the majority of the charges, Judge John Devaux entered not guilty pleas on his behalf.

He was granted bail but then sparked a worldwide manhunt after jumping his bail.

On October 29, 2002, it was reported police in Bavaria had caught Murray Cowan after he fell asleep in his Audi at a service station near Aschaffenburg .

The car was allegedly so stuffed with boxes of what appeared to be Microsoft 97 Professional software that it was barely able to be driven.

Sensing counterfeit, police took both the driver and 4,000 copies of the programs into custody.

On November 6, The Evening Star reported that the German authorities believed they had captured Murray Cowan, although they were unable to confirm his identity.

Trading standards officers approached The Evening Star to obtain photographs of Murray Cowan, which were later used to identify him.

On November 7, 2002, the day Murray Cowan was due to reappear at Ipswich Crown Court, extradition proceedings were still not concluded.

Three days later, Time Magazine picked up on The Evening Star story and reported on the case.

More than three months after being caught, on February 17, 2003, it was confirmed Murray Cowan was likely to face charges in Germany before being extradited back to England.

In a letter dated February 2, 2003, Murray Cowan wrote to The Evening Star to deny all the charges against him.

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