By Simon Parry
England rugby star Mike Tindall was last night facing a fresh inquisition from his wife Zara Phillips after admitting that he lied about his drunken night out with a mystery blonde in New Zealand.
Tindall - newly married to the Queen’s granddaughter - had insisted he went back to his hotel alone after CCTV captured him canoodling with the young woman in the Altitude bar in Queenstown.
Now an investigation by The Mail on Sunday has forced Tindall, 32, to confess that he and the blonde went on to a second bar, Cowboys, where they behaved like a smooching teenage couple in full view of other members of the England party.
Canoodling: Tindall and the blonde in the Altitude Bar before going on to Cowboys
The Mail on Sunday has been given a startlingly clear image of the blonde - who has still not been identified - which was captured on the high-tech CCTV cameras in Cowboys, where she spent more than an hour with Tindall.
When witnesses first claimed that Tindall and the blonde had gone on to Cowboys together after leaving Altitude just before 2am on September 12, Tindall assured England team managers and his public relations representatives that the claims were false.
He was so vociferous in his insistence that, embarrassingly, a partner from the Queen’s law firm Farrer and Co, acting for the Rugby Football Union, was duped into calling The Mail on Sunday last Saturday to claim falsely that Tindall had gone straight back to his hotel alone.
The denials came after Zara, 30, flew to join Tindall in New Zealand last weekend for a reconciliation. They ate out happily together after last Saturday’s victory over Romania, appearing to put behind them the controversy over the first CCTV film, which was shown on YouTube.
Now Tindall, who only married Princess Anne’s daughter at the end of July, has been forced to issue a grovelling apology and admit he lied and went on to visit Cowboys with the blonde from 2am until shortly after 3am.
Last Saturday, media lawyer Julian Pike, of Farrer and Co, had phoned The Mail on Sunday to say it was ‘categorically untrue’ that Tindall had gone to a second bar with the woman.
He said: ‘They did not go to a second bar. He was shoved in a taxi by some mates back to his hotel.’
The call was designed to stop a story, quoting witnesses who had seen the couple, from going to press last weekend.
When The Mail on Sunday contacted Tindall and Zara’s spokeswoman at Juniper Sport PR last Saturday at 3.59pm for a comment about our story, she said: ‘We won’t be making any comment. If I have any other questions, I’ll come back to you.’
At 7.04pm, she called back to confirm that the bar in our story was called Cowboys.
Hotspot: The Cowboys Bar where Tindall went with the mystery blonde after leaving Altitude
At that point she added: ‘Mike wasn’t in that bar. Mike wasn’t in any bar. Mike went home after Altitude. This is totally not for printing. We have no comment on this story.
‘Off the record, he did not go to any bar after Altitude bar. He went back to his hotel. The team hotel. I don’t want to be quoted on any of this. I’m just telling you that he did not go to another bar.’
But on Friday, after our continuing investigations confirmed the existence of date-stamped CCTV footage proving beyond doubt that Tindall was in Cowboys with the blonde, the player finally admitted that he was there. Tindall’s public relations company Juniper Sport issued a statement pinning the blame on its client.
It said: ‘Mike Tindall gave his PR consultants and the Rugby Football Union his assurance that he had not attended the Cowboys bar, having left the Altitude bar.
‘In good faith, his PR consultants, the RFU and the RFU’s solicitors relied upon that assurance when dealing with last week’s story.
‘However, Mike now accepts that his recollection was incorrect and he apologises unreservedly for this misjudgment.’
Tindall now faces explaining to Zara – who left New Zealand early last week but is expected to return to watch him in the later stages of the Rugby World Cup - why he tried to cover up his visit to Cowboys. Its owner Leo Molloy earlier confirmed that Tindall and the blonde had been captured on the bar’s high-tech CCTV cameras.
But he refused to show the video, saying: ‘Our position is that if it’s not a crime, then we won’t release the footage. Rooting [having sex] isn’t a crime in New Zealand.’
A witness who has viewed the Cowboys video said it could create severe matrimonial friction for Tindall, who only married Zara at the end of July. It shows the blonde chatting to other members of the England party as well as planting kisses on a clearly-drunk Tindall.
Clips of the film have been shown to Mail on Sunday journalists in response to Tindall’s denials that he was at the bar.
In the earlier CCTV footage from Altitude, leaked on to YouTube by bouncer Jonathan Dixon, Tindall was alone with the blonde while other players had left.
In Cowboys, he appears to have rejoined a party of at least half a dozen players and people from the England party.
‘What might upset Zara about the Cowboys video is that he’s surrounded by people who she probably knows and who she might have expected to step in and tell him to behave himself,’ the witness said.
‘Instead, you can see that they act as if they know the woman and aren’t at all surprised to see her and Tindall getting cosy with each other.’
Another person who has viewed the video said: ‘You can see by the way she moves and conducts her-self that she is a middle-class, Home Counties girl. She is socially confident and seems to know the England players and the people with them well.
Man of action: Tindall played for England in their victory over Scotland yesterday
‘It looks from the way she chats to other members of the England party, and touches them on the arm, that they know her, too, and they are very friendly and familiar with her.’
Describing the blonde’s antics with Tindall in Cowboys, the first witness said: ‘She is extremely flirty and does 99 per cent of the running while Tindall sits slumped in his seat.
‘She’s a very good-looking girl and she knows it. She goes over and kisses him and tries to drag him up to dance but you can see he’s too trashed to get out of his seat - so she leaves him there and comes back to him from time to time.
‘He only kisses her back once. In every other case, it’s she who kissed him - she’s obviously making a big play for him.’
In one CCTV sequence, the blonde kisses Tindall full on the lips as he sits in his seat. In another, she walks behind Tindall in a corridor next to the toilets in Cowboys and stops to chat to another woman who is with the England party.
The final film sequence shows the blonde leaving the bar with Tindall shortly after 3am while a friend, believed to be a fellow England player, helps to support the newly-wed, who bumps into a wall and can barely stand.
There is no suggestion that the blonde went anywhere else with Tindall after Cowboys. Other witnesses have said Tindall took a taxi back to the team hotel alone.
The second witness said: ‘It is possible that Tindall has no recollection of going to Cowboys and that’s why he denied it. But there were other people from the England party in the bar, so he must have checked out what happened with them.’
Filmed on 16 high-definition digital security cameras, the Cowboys video is much clearer than the relatively grainy images from the Altitude bar. In one sequence, the blonde’s face is clearly visible as she walks in the corridor outside the bar’s toilets.
Zara Phillips’ spokesman has said the woman in the video – who looks to be in her early 30s - is an old friend of the couple who attended their wedding and lives in Australia. Tindall has reportedly told Zara that the woman is a former girlfriend.
Jonathan Dixon, 40, the bouncer who claims he leaked the CCTV footage of Tindall - who was injured in England’s 16-12 World Cup win over Scotland yesterday - and the blonde in Altitude on to YouTube partly because he was ‘outraged’ by what he called Tindall’s ‘sleazy’ behaviour, is due to make a second court appearance in Queenstown tomorrow, accused of accessing a computer system for a dishonest purpose.