The battle of a would-be Bedford mayor has erupted into eleventh hour fury with police and lawyers called in to deal with claims of libel.
The injured contender is former newspaper editor Steve Lowe, who is the subject of a mystery website ridiculing his campaign and making defamatory claims about his integrity.
Details of the website were this week circulated to all 40 Bedford councillors as well as local businesses via a Gmail account which used an insulting pun of his surname.
Despite the insult the email address fooled the editor of Bedfordshire on Sunday, where Mr Lowe was editor for many years. She replied to the perpetrators, believing they were Mr Lowe himself, expressing her views on the libel and saying: “Let’s chat later.”
The gaffe was published on the spoof site, as “proof” of Independent Mr Lowe’s alleged allegiance with the paper.
On Tuesday the former greengrocer, who was also once a Beds county councillor, was furious about the smear campaign.
He said: “The scurrilous accusations are highly defamatory and all of them are untrue... I hope this does not spoil what has been until now a very clean and fair election campaign by all involved.”
The 63-year-old said he had recruited lawyers and also reported the matter to police.
He is standing today against Labour’s Tim Douglas, Conservative Jas Parmar, UKIP’s Adrian Haynes and incumbent mayor Lib-Dem Dave Hodgson, who has condemned the website.