WHEN the Mayflower Theatre revealed its plans for a spectacular Christmastime production of The Wizard of Oz this week they assembled "the Fab Four" who will share star billing for a media launch.

They are Russ Abbot, Gregor Fisher, Gary Wilmot and former Bournemouth actor and TV presenter Matthew Kelly.

They joined producer Michael Rose on stage for a questions and answers session before an audience of potential group bookers and a handful of local journalists.

There then followed fleeting one-to-one interviews with Russ, Gregor and Gary but Matthew took a huge side-step from us at this point.

The word from the producer was that Matthew was flatly refusing to do any interviews with the press.

The outrageous tabloid treatment of him over child sex allegations back in January 2003 had left scars that I sense will never heal.

I have met Matthew on many occasions in the past for constructive and positive interviews.

We have even judged talent competitions together and he was always friendly and fun.

But as I rubbed shoulders with him this week at the buffet table there wasn't even a "Hello". I have inadvertently become the "enemy".

Four years down the road it isn't the details of the false accusations that have remained in my memory. What has stuck with me is the memory of the horrific headline-grabbing trial by media he suffered.

I remember wondering what happened to this country's "innocent until proven guilty" law.

I particularly remember the reporting that Matthew had children's Disney videos in his home.

It was made to sound so sinister but here was an entertainer with years of pantomime experience whose very job was to know about things like Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella.

It looked as if one malicious accusation - proven to be unfounded - was going to destroy the career of one of Britain's most popular TV stars as ITV's Stars in Their Eyes temporarily dropped him from the show. But I admired his stoicism as he returned to work playing Captain Hook in Peter Pan at Birmingham repertory Theatre.

And then, exactly one year after police dropped their month-long investigations, he was named Best Actor at the Olivier Awards for his powerful performance as Lenny, the gentle giant in John Steinbeck's Depression-era classic Of Mice and Men.

He triumphed over a distinguished nominee list that included Kenneth Branagh and Michael Sheen but it was a triumph that went much further than that.

It's old news, fit for nothing but fish and chip paper.

And so I felt a little sad and sorry this week that Matthew still feels bitter, even towards the regional press.

But I wish him well with the Southampton show that is sure to be an absolute cracker. And much of its success will be down to his phenomenal talent.