Warne at centre of another controversy

SYDNEY AUG. 10. Three years after admitting he made lewd telephone calls to a British nurse, banned cricketer Shane Warne is at the centre of another controversy over similar calls to a South African woman.

Warne is seeking legal advice after being accused of making a series of telephone calls to Helen Cohen Alon, a 45-year-old divorced mother of three from Johannesburg.

Cohen Alon claims she was offered money by an associate of the Australian Test cricketer to keep quiet about their relationship, phone calls and a series of text messages. She claims the phone messages continued long after she met Warne in South Africa.

Acquaintances of the woman have indicated she deliberately targeted Warne with the aim of making more than $350,000 in hush money.

Cohen Alon accuses Warne of calling her up to 40 times after a models' party and sending her lewd text messages.

Warne's manager and brother, Jason, on Sunday issued a written response to the allegations — reported in the Sunday Times newspaper in Johannesburg — through their joint management company, 23 Red.

``We regard the allegations of the South African woman, Helen Cohen Alon, as a personal issue between Shane, Simone and the relevant parties,'' the statement said.

``This appears to be a blatant attempt by a person attempting to set up someone for personal gain — whether that be monetary or notoriety — and we will consult our legal people in this regard.

``We feel to comment on the issue would only further assist her in gaining the result she is conspiring to create. Therefore, Shane and anyone connected to him will not be making any further comments on this topic.''

Warne, serving a 12-month suspension from international cricket for failing a drugs test, lost the Australian vice-captaincy in August 2000, after admitting he made lewd telephone calls to a British nurse.

Colen Alon said she first met Warne on Feb. 20 of last year at a clothing store in Sandton City, the Johannesburg suburb where the Australian team was based in during its Test and one-day tour of South Africa.

She said she went on several dates with Warne and twice went to his hotel room.

Cohen Alon said she kept text messages from Warne, including one after the models' party. The message, according to the Sunday Times, came from Warne's mobile telephone number.

But an unidentified woman told the newspaper that a scantily dressed Cohen Alon had spent her time at the party trying to attract the interest of an uninterested Australian team, including Warne.

Cohen Alon's former hairdresser, Clifford van der Westhuizen, was quoted as saying he was present when Warne met the woman.

``He (Warne) did not look for it,'' said van der Westhuizen. ``She went to him and started all of this. He never said `Let's go for supper.' She said, `I want your number'.''