The former London detective who said that James Earl Ray had admitted to him that he killed Martin Luther King Jr. yesterday stood by his testimony given to a congressional committee.
Former Chief Inspector Alexander Eist also angrily labeled "absolutely untrue" allegations about his credibility made by Ray's attorney, Mark Lane, at Friday's hearing of the House Assassinations Committee.
Speaking by telephone from his pub, the Green Man in the small village of Six Mile Bottom, near Newmarket, Suffolk, Eist said he was astonished that he had been vilified before the committee without being given the chance to clear his name.
Eist (pronounced East), who served with Scotland Yard's gang-busting Flying Squad, tape recorded his testimony for the Assassinations Committee in his pub on Aug. 4. In that statement Eist recalled conversations he had with Ray, whom he guarded after Ray's arrest at London's Heathrow airport 10 years ago.
Eist said yesterday: "At one stage he was telling me about how he had panicked and thrown away the gun in a front doorway after seeing a policeman. I felt he was telling me the truth. He left no doubt that he was the killer and was proud of it."
During the reading of Eist's evidence at Friday's hearing Mark Lane slipped out and announced later that he had made a telephone call to a London lawyer. Lane said he had been told that Eist "had been placed on trial for taking bribes and for involvement in jewel robberies" and that in court he fabricated testimony.
Eist, who is 49, said yesterday he had been involved in only one case and had been acquitted of all charges.
He added: "So far as I am concerned I cannot understand how a so-called qualified lawyer could come out with such a statement without at least checking the facts. Even in American law there must be some recourse to action. What he said is absolutely untrue and I am suffering because of it."
Lane did not actually say Eist had been convicted of any defense but implied there were doubts about the reliability of Eist's testimony.
In June, Eist was cleared of corruption charges which arose from the arrest of two men for receiving stolen postage stamps worth $40,000 to $60,000.
The prosecution had charged that officers serving in the flying squad had conspired with a lawyer and a police informer to secure an acquittal.
The judge directed the jury to bring in not guilty verdicts against Eist.
The judge said: "I have come to the conclusion that there is no evidence to link him with any of the counts in which his name appears."
Eist said yesterday that was the only trouble he had ever been involved in.
Eist has a commendation for each of his 28 years of police service which he says is "way above average." He was also awarded the British Empire Medal for bravery.
Eist said he was bewildered and annoyed by the store that has burst over him. He said he believed it was the right thing to do to give testimony on what he knew of the Ray case yet now he was "infamous."
"I live in a very small village and this is crucfying me," he said. He said he was too confused to decide whether he should go to the United States to demand a hearing. He said he had no plans to do so at present.
Eist says he believes what happened to him is part of an attempt to shift the blame for the Martin Luther King killing onto the FBI.
"I would say to such an allegation - absolutely no way. I had dealings with the FBI and they could not have acted more honorably to get that man brought to justice."
In his statement to the committee, Eist said Ray seemed "quite proud" of killing King.
"(Ray) was telling me that for him to have shot a black man of note in certain parts of America would make him into a national hero," Eist said. "He seemed absolutely mad about publicity. He really wanted it. He kept asking me, 'Has anything else appeared in the papers today?'"
Eist said Ray expected to make a lot of money" from publicity about the killing.
"First of all he mentioned half-a-million dollars. Later on, it became a quarter million dollars," Eist said. "He told me that his plan at this time now was to get a good lawyer, one he could trust, a mercenary lawyer . . . who hated black people anyway like himself."