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Cops Question French Runner Perec

September 21, 2000

SINGAPORE (AP) _ Police questioned French Olympic running star Marie-Jose Perec and her companion for much of the day Thursday, after the companion allegedly attacked a TV news cameraman at Singapore’s international airport.

Perec and her American companion, Anthuan Maybank, left Singapore late Thursday night, bound for Paris aboard an Air France jetliner. A crowd of journalists and photographers was on hand, startling other passengers waiting to board the plane.

Perec refused to talk to reporters, leaving the world to wonder about one of the most bizarre episodes coming from the Sydney Games.

Perec, defending champion in the 400 meters, fled Sydney late Wednesday after reportedly being accosted by an unidentified man in her hotel room.

Her anticipated duel with Australian Cathy Freeman in the high-profile event had been expected to be one of the high points of this year’s Olympics.

Maybank, a former 400-meter runner himself, rushed at free-lance TV cameraman Kyme Hallion, an Australian, when he tried to film Perec on her arrival at Singapore’s Changi Airport early Thursday, Hallion said.

``He came at me like a raging bull,″ Hallion told The Associated Press in an interview from his Singapore office.

``He was steaming. And he was a big guy,″ Hallion said.

Hallion stopped filming, but later encountered the couple again.

``He lunged at me, and I automatically started filming again,″ Hallion said. ``I was on the ground, and he was hitting me and trying to either break the camera or get the film out. He hit me on the back of my head with his fist. He kept repeating: ’Give me the tape!‴

Perec at one point begged Maybank to leave Hallion alone, Hallion said.

Hallion was checked for head injuries at a Singapore hospital, and released shortly afterward.

Police questioned Perec and Maybank at a police station near the airport throughout the day.

French ambassador to Singapore Michel Filhol was seen entering the police station Thursday evening.

The couple subsequently left the police station nearly 12 hours after the scuffle.

``Police have decided to take no further action in respect to the case,″ police spokesman Phillip Mah said. ``We have completed our investigation into an alleged case of voluntarily causing hurt.″

``No one was placed under arrest. She (Perec) is free to go where she wants to go,″ Mah said.

Perec stared straight ahead and did not respond to reporters and photographers waiting outside the police station or at the airport. She smiled briefly after passing through the last of the reporters at the boarding gate.

Perec was a two-time defending champion in the 400 meters and a potential threat to favorite Freeman in the 400 at the Sydney Games. She left Australia one day before Friday’s first-round heats in the event.

An air of mystery has developed around the 32-year-old runner, who has been so reclusive that the Australian media labeled here the ``Greta Garbo of athletics.″

Perec refused to train with the French team in Sydney, and hid from reporters.

She was given VIP treatment on her departure from Singapore, after a tumultuous day that captured the sporting world’s attention and left it baffled at the same time.

Unidentified officials whisked the couple through the airport, and helped them with their bags. They were escorted to the plane without the customary wait in line.

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