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Rooney fiancee in duty spot

London, Oct. 6: It is fair to say that footballer's wives, and even their girlfriends, are better known for their appreciation of designer labels than import/export laws.

And yesterday Wayne Rooney's teenage girlfriend did her bit to conform to type after being stopped at Manchester airport with up to '40,000 of undeclared designer goods in her bag.

Coleen McLoughlin was questioned for more than two hours by customs officers after being stopped going through the 'nothing to declare' channel on her return from a shopping spree in New York.

The aspiring actor had been treated to the trip by Rooney, following his recent '27-million transfer to Manchester United.

Together with an entourage of friends ' and a minder ' she is understood to have spent the weekend visiting some of Manhattan's most exclusive stores, including Bloomingdales, before catching a flight back to Britain on Monday evening.

Travelling economy class, the party arrived drowsy and jet-lagged at Manchester at 5.55 am yesterday.

But while the other passengers, including McCloughlin's friends, passed swiftly into the arrivals hall at Terminal 3, it was 9 am before Rooney's girlfriend emerged.

The incident is the latest misfortune to befall McLoughlin recently. First, her 18th birthday party was blighted by a punch-up between her family and Rooney's; then her hopes of a fairytale engagement were dashed by reports that her boyfriend was a frequent visitor to Liverpool's brothels.

More recently she has had to contend with the upheaval of Rooney's transfer to Manchester, and a high-profile blackmail trial involving his former agent, in which she was due to appear as a witness.

McLoughlin's spokesperson yesterday insisted that her failure to declare the goods, believed to include items of jewellery as well as clothes and presents, was an innocent mistake. She said she was 'entirely unaware' that she was expected to pay import duties.

'No charges have been brought and the matter is closed,' she said.

Travellers returning to Britain from the US have to pay duty on valuables worth more than '145. They are also allowed 200 cigarettes and a litre of spirits before being required to pay duty.

Customs officers can stop and search anyone using the green 'nothing to declare' channel to check that the correct duty has been paid. McLoughlin was one of 14 passengers on the BA flight who were challenged by customs officers.

A spokesperson for customs and excise said: 'A number of them were stopped in relation to underpaid duty and an appropriate financial penalty was applied. No arrests were made.'

However, McLoughlin's father last night admitted that his daughter had been 'quite upset' at being held for so long after the eight-hour flight.

Speaking outside the family's terrace house in Croxteth, Merseyside, Tony McLoughlin said he did not know which items in her luggage had aroused the interest of customs officials.

However, he added: 'In the end it was all sorted out'.

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