Northern Ireland

Higgins apology letter to be sold at auction

Alex Higgins
Image caption Alex Higgins hit Colin Randle at a post-match press conference in 1990

A letter of apology written by Alex 'Hurricane' Higgins after he punched a press officer in front of the world's media, is to be sold at auction.

Snooker star Higgins, who was from south Belfast, died on 24 July at the age of 61.

The former world champion wrote the letter minutes before he appeared in front of a disciplinary panel.

It followed a bust-up with Colin Randle who was working as a press officer for the sport's governing body at the time.

Written in upper and lower case it contains remarks from Higgins including, "I was very upset at the time in respect of personal and financial matters", auctioneer Charles Hanson has said.

Mr Randle, of Findern in south Derbyshire, was officiating at the Crucible World Championship in Sheffield on April 14, 1990.

Higgins had just crashed out of the world tournament to Steve James, and as he was entering the media area for a post-match press conference, he turned around and "walloped" Mr Randle in the stomach.

Mr Randle, 60, said the player may have already held a grudge against him after he reported him for not attending a press conference the previous year.

He told the Derby Telegraph: "On entering the press area, as I always courteously did, I thanked him for coming.

Genius

"I just said 'thank you, Alex' and he turned around and walloped me in the stomach.

"He said words to the effect of 'I don't have to take any more nonsense off people like you because I'm retiring'."

Mr Randle said he responded by pinning Higgins up against the wall before the pair were eventually pulled apart.

The tussle resulted in Higgins being suspended for a year and docked so many points that his ranking fell to 120.

The letter was written three months after the incident and had been in a drawer for years, Mr Randle said.

He also said the incident did not make him think badly of Higgins, who died after a long battle with throat cancer, and he remembered him simply as "a truly brilliant snooker player".

He has decided to donate some of the proceeds to Cancer Research.

Mr Hanson, from Hansons Auctioneers, said the letter was expected to fetch between £1,500 and £2,000.

He added: "It is iconic to the history of snooker and is a letter which marked the beginning of a decline for a snooker genius considered by some to be the most truly gifted player."

The letter will be sold at the Mackworth Hotel in Derby on 25 November.