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OJ Simpson questioned over break-in at Las Vegas casino

By Andrew Gumbel

O J Simpson was named as a suspect last night in a break-in at a Las Vegas casino hotel, putting a bizarre twist on a career that has included being accused – and, notoriously, acquitted – of killing his ex-wife and her friend.

Las Vegas police said they suspected Simpson of breaking into a hotel room at the Palace Station casino and taking some sports memorabilia that he believed to be his. Simpson was taken into questioning, along with several other "associates", and released only after he gave the authorities assurances that he would not attempt to leave town.

Contacted by the Associated Press, he acknowledged going into a hotel room – following a tip-off from an auction house owner he knows – to recover memorabilia from people he characterised as collectors handling stolen goods. He said the incident was a "sting operation". "It's stolen stuff that's mine," he said. "Nobody was roughed up." The police said they were hearing "conflicting stories".

The alleged break-in took place on Thursday night. Simpson, who lives in Florida, had been scheduled to give a deposition yesterday in a bankruptcy case involving his daughter, but told his Miami lawyers he would be out of town. He said he was in Las Vegas for a friend's wedding.

Simpson has auctioned off some of his sports memorabilia over the years, ostensibly to meet his legal obligations under the terms of a $33.5m (£16.5m) settlement he owes to the families of the murder victims. He was acquitted of all criminal charges in the murders in 1996, but was found liable for the deaths in civil court a year later.

He has, however, paid out very little money to the families of Nicole Brown Simpson, his ex-wife, and her friend Ron Goldman. He has taken advantage of Florida's indulgent laws on shielding assets to prevent the courts from seizing anything of significant size. Sports memorabilia is one of the very few things he has been forced to give up.

Simpson's involvement in the latest incident comes on the heels of another bizarre development – the decision by Ron Goldman's family to publish a book originally written under Simpson's name in which he plays with the idea of confessing to the murders.

The book, entitled If I Did It, was due to be published last November by Regan Books, an imprint of Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins publishing empire. Murdoch's Fox television network also recorded a two-part interview special with Simpson.

The book and the television special were cancelled at the last minute, however, after news of the book's impending release provoked an outcry among the bereaved relatives.

Ten months on, however, Ron Goldman's father Fred has obtained the rights and decided to put it out himself, repackaged slightly so it looks like a confession (the word "if" is now barely visible).

Denise Brown, Nicole's sister, says she will never speak to Fred Goldman again.

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