Former Rangers chief Paul Murray feared home was bugged after break-in while club was on the brink


Paul Murray saw it coming long before most.

So rather than wait around for the heartbreak of Valentine’s Day, the Rangers board member took the family on a skiing trip to France.

He knew deep down there was nothing more for him to do here.

It was 2012 and Rangers were about to be dragged over into a financial abyss and into the hands of administrators – the first step towards liquidation.

Paul, 57, had warned all along this was where the club he loved would end up.

He told David Murray that this day would be inevitable but it fell on deaf ears.

I have spent the next 12 months screaming out to a world in which no one seemed willing to listen.

Rangers football fans show support for their club at Ibrox Stadium on February 18, 2012 in Glasgow
Rangers football fans show support for their club at Ibrox Stadium on February 18, 2012 in Glasgow

But what Paul could not possibly have predicted was the sinister turn of events about to unfold in the dead of night back at his empty home in the Borders.

The events in the hours leading up to the multi-million pound scandal which shook the game to its very core are a spine-tingling twist to an astonishingly dark story of deceit, deception and double crossing he’s never told before.

Being advised by police to have the family house swept for hearing devices was not something he felt comfortable discussing in public.

Paul would ultimately guide the group that saved Rangers but, 10 years on, he remains unnerved by what went on.

He is finally ready to give his uncut account of the events which almost led to the demise of the club he loves.

It’s a tale he tells with the aid of his immaculately organised, chartered accountant’s mind.

He tells me: “Valentine’s Day 10 years ago was actually on a Tuesday. We went skiing in France on Saturday.

“Late on Sunday night, or the early hours of Monday, I got a phone call from our housekeeper to tell me the burglar alarm had gone off.

“It was something like 4am and she was obviously very upset. But she told me the police were taking care of it, so I told her to go back to bed and we’d sort things out in the morning.

“Once we established there was no serious damage and nothing obvious had been stolen, the place was locked up again, made secure and we decided to see out the rest of our holiday in France.

“But when I got back, I met the police officer who was in charge of the investigation and I was really quite taken aback with what he told me.

“He wasn’t a big football fan but he knew who I was and that I was involved with Rangers.

“He said to me, ‘There’s something really odd going on here. I’ve been doing this kind of work for a long time but I’ve never seen a case like this’.

“What I found odd was that whoever had entered the house had taken a lot of time and care removing panes of glass from the French doors.

Administrator Paul Clark addresses the media on the financial crisis at Rangers in February 2012
Administrator Paul Clark addresses the media on the financial crisis at Rangers in February 2012

“It had been done really meticulously. They hadn’t just smashed their way in like a normal break and entry.

“They had removed the glass pane-by-pane and then laid it all carefully against a wall before gaining entry and, presumably, setting off the alarm at that point.

“Then, after all that effort, they hadn’t even grabbed anything on the way out. The police officer said, ‘It’s really strange. Why would anyone do that?’

“There was no damage to the house and nothing taken.

“He then said to me completely unprompted, ‘It’s almost as if someone has tried to plant something inside your house – a bug or something – and then left in a hurry when the alarm went off’.

“I remember being shocked. It was a strange thing to say. Obviously, I then had the house swept and checked for listening devices, there was nothing there.”

Paul and I first came into contact in the days after the Record broke the news of David Murray’s intention to sell control of the Ibrox club.

Over the dizzying months that followed, leading up to the ill-fated takeover in May 2011, Paul would become more than just a trusted whistleblower to me.

We remain close friends to this day.

He goes on: “Over time, you and I did have our own reservations about phones suddenly acting funny mid conversation and making strange clicking noises. It was a very strange time all round.”

Sir David Murray sold Rangers to Craig Whyte for £1, while taking on obligations such as an £18million bank debt
Sir David Murray

It’s all true. These dodgy phone lines would become a running joke between the pair of us. The connection almost unfailingly seemed to drop out at the most inconvenient of moments.

At times, it did feel as if Paul – who did not fit naturally into this murky world – might be getting in above his head.

Smiling wryly, he said: “Yes, there was a bit of concern about that.

“Obviously, the break-in could have been a complete match. It might have been, who knows? It’s not totally uncommon.

“But it was the date that made it feel significant, as well as what the police officer said to me. He was bemused by the whole thing and so was I.

“I didn’t dwell on it for too long but a lot of what went on over the years just didn’t feel right. When you look back, you do wonder.”

The truth is, Paul had made himself a serious inconvenience to people who had taken over.

But he continued to do everything in his power to hold them to account.

Put it this way, without his repeated and noisy warnings, this whole Rangers takeover would have been a great deal easier to pull off.

He said: “I’m pretty sure if you look back at what was written – and it was your newspaper which carried most of it – I was making my concerns known from the start.

The new Rangers owner Craig Whyte waved to fans in May 2011
Craig Whyte in May 2011

“On the week the club was taken over, I did an interview saying this was going to end in administration in 12 months. As it happened, it was almost to the day.

“In June of 2011, you wrote a story about the club being funded by mortgaging future season tickets. You were then shut down and forced to apologize, even though it was later that the story was correct.

“It was just a whole lot worse than anyone could possibly have imagined.”

In January 2012, six months after the story which the club denied, the Record revealed the full ruinous scale of that infamous deal with lenders Ticketus.

Days later, Paul’s worst fears were confirmed.

He sighed: “It had been coming. You guys at the Record had written the season ticket story which pretty much blew the thing apart.

“It was obvious there was no way back because the club’s future revenue had been sold off.

“Nikica Jelavic was also sold on the last day of the January transfer window, so it was clear where everything was heading.

“On Monday the 13th, there was activity in court. HMRC tried to appoint their own administrator so they could get a proper look at the books.

“But the club were able to stop that and get Duff and Phelps appointed. And then, the following day, the inevitable happened.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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