Farage: I never claimed car wheel incident was assassination bid
Nigel Farage has insisted he never claimed to have been the target of an assassination attempt when a wheel fell off his car while driving on a French motorway.
The Ukip leader's claim that French police and mechanics told him the wheel nuts on his vehicle had been tampered with has been questioned, after French newspaper Liberation reported that police classified the incident as an accident and garage workers who checked the car did not suspect foul play.
Mr Farage said he still did not know whether the wheel nuts were tampered with, but now wished the story had never become public.
Speaking to the Mail on Sunday last week, the Ukip leader said that mechanics who looked at his car were "absolutely certain" of foul play and that "French police looked at it and said that sometimes nuts on one wheel can come a bit loose - but not on all four".
But garage owner Philipe Marquis told Liberation that he believed the nuts were loose because they had been wrongly screwed on following a previous repair, but that he was unable to tell Mr Farage as he spoke no English. Asked whether he had suggested sabotage was to blame, Mr Marquis said: "I never said that, he just saw us screwing back the nuts."
And prosecutors told the French paper that police recorded the incident near Dunkirk as a repair service, and would have been obliged to open an investigation if they suspected the Volvo had been tampered with.
Asked why he did not press for a criminal prosecution if he believed someone had tried to kill him, Mr Farage told LBC radio: "I received a phone call from the Mail on Sunday saying 'We've heard a story that you were involved in an accident on a French motorway and that somebody had tampered with your car'. And I made a terrible, terrible mistake.
"I should just have said 'no comment' and put the phone down. I took the view that as they were going to run it anyway, we'd try and get it factually right. So I did give a few bits and bobs of information that it appeared to have been tampered with. That then turns in a Sunday newspaper into an assassination attempt. I never said anything of the kind.
"And now there's speculation as to what the police did say or didn't say. My view was, whether it was deliberately tampered with or not, what happened happened and I just want to get on with my life. This happened months ago. I thought I'd told almost nobody about it. Somebody obviously, for their own advantage, had given this to a Sunday newspaper. I'd rather the story hadn't appeared."
Pressed over whether he believed the wheel nuts had indeed been tampered with, he replied: "I don't know ... Police thought that they probably had.
"That's how it looked to them. If the French-speaking mechanic took a different view, I don't know. As I say, next time I get a phone call from a newspaper asking me a question about anything that's personal or linked to my security, I will not give an answer. I've learnt a big lesson from this."
Asked if he was now worried whenever he got in his car, he replied: "No. I've survived worse than that."
Mr Farage, who also survived a light aircraft crash on election day in 2010, joked that there seemed to be no form of transport which was safe for him.
"I was walking on November 25th, 1985 over a pelican crossing when a car hit me and broke my leg in six places, so I'm not even safe walking," he said. "I shouldn't be allowed out really."