SENSATIONAL claims that Iraqi torture pictures were passed round an Accrington working men's club have been denied by the bemused stewardess.
A national newspaper reported that the photographs, similar to those which have appeared in the Daily Mirror, first surfaced in the Bold Street Club six months ago.
But licensee Sharon Bolton fumed: "We have no idea who started these rumours but as far as I'm concerned they are not true. Servicemen do use the club but to my knowledge no pictures or anything have been passed around here."
"We've had every newspaper in the land calling us up to ask about the pictures. But there is nothing to tell. As far as I'm concerned the story is unfounded."
The claims were made in The Independent by a 43-year-old former Grenad-ier guardsman from Accrington.
He told the paper: "These young lads appalled us. They were passing round all sorts of pictures of prisoners being humiliated in the stress position. We all know how bad it is. Some were laughing about it. Others were upset, saying you have got to think about your mates coming along after an outrage like this. The whole town has been muttering about this for weeks."
The Observer has tried to contact the man involved to ask about the allegations but his house appeared deserted this week.
Several members of the club are retired servicemen with the Royal Marine Band and the East Lancashire branch of the Royal Marines Association.
The pictures printed in the Daily Mirror, the most notorious of which showed a serviceman urinating on an Iraqi prisoner, were expected to be denounced as fake by the Government on Thursday.
It had been alleged that the Queen's Lancashire Regiment was involved in the abuse but in the latest twist the photos were said to have been faked in the back of a truck at a Territorial Army barracks in Preston.
The Queen's Lancashire Regiment has close links with Accrington through the world-famous Accrington Pals battalion which was decimated on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in World War One.
Councillor Sandra Hayes, who was Mayor when the regiment recei-ved the Freedom of the Borough in July 2002, said: "I am perturbed, when my son is serving in Cyprus, that his regiment has been put under suspicion. If what they are alleged to have done is true they should be punished. If it is a hoax, the perpetrators should be punished even more severely."
Councillor Peter Britcliffe, leader of Hyndburn Council, said: "We should all guard against claims in the national press. I understand the media have even tried to link the vandalism at the Cenotaph in Oswald-twistle to people angered by the torture allegations and I am sure that isn't true."
"In Accrington we are very proud of the Queen's Lancashire Regiment. I am anxious for these insinuations to be investigated and the matter to be cleared up as quickly as possible. The link between the QLR and the town should remain as steadfast as ever and if one or two people have besmirched the good name of the regiment, they should be identified and dealt with."