THE gates of HM Prison Wealstun slammed shut and this time George Reynolds was on the outside.

The man who lost millions on what many believe was a grand act of folly gained his liberty on licence yesterday after serving just over 12 months of a three-year stretch for cheating the taxman.

At just before 8am, in pouring rain, out he came - the characteristic rolling walk still the same but much of the swagger absent from the once hugely wealthy jail bird.

Clearly delighted to be heading home, albeit with an electronic tag strapped to him and subject to a 7.15pm to 7.15am curfew, he smiled broadly but for once had little to say.

Once in the car of a friend who had arrived at the gates to take him home, however, he told of his most recent days behind bars, where he not only had time to regail his captive audience with his endless anecdotes, but had time to reflect on the disastrous events which saw him topple from a prominent position on the nation's rich list to life behind bars.

The one-time safecracker had been inside before and he already knew the score.

But this time it was an open prison and serving his sentence proved a lot easier.

He said: "To be honest, I got nothing but help from the staff and inmates in there and, more importantly, I have had time to think. I have had time to go over the events which led to me going to jail time and time again.

"And that's what I've been doing. I can't say I found it hard in prison - it has changed a lot since I was last there and I decided I would take my sentence on the chin come what may."

With his once famous comb-over hair style gone but looking no trimmer for his time on prison grub, George was eager to talk about the way ahead with only a slight reflective pause.

"Though I try not to think of the past, it is hard to stomach the fact that once I had used all my cash to build Darlington FC a new state-of-the-art stadium, I was prevented from holding anything but football matches there, which literally meant there was no way I could make it pay.

"I may have rubbed the powers that be up the wrong way but that can't be a legitimate reason for refusing me permission and yet a year later allowing events to take place."

But this bitter moment was swiftly overtaken by his plans for the future -which he predicts will be making millions within the next year.

Arriving at his Durham City penthouse, he slipped back onto his Italian leather sofa and exclaimed: "It's all still here and I'm delighted to be home.

"Even though I will be on a tag for the next three months, it's now full steam ahead for the future.

"I won't be able to go out in the evenings, but that might help me lose bit of weight keeping out of local restaurants.

"But really speaking, there won't be enough hours in the day for me to graft at my business."

Is it all bravado? His perfume dispensing machines are there for everyone to see in hotels, bars and clubs from Yarm to Newcastle.

He said: "And that's just the start. We now have pitches earmarked the length and breadth of the country."

And he claimed there will be no tax problems this time, saying: "I have a team of accountants making certain that every penny is accounted for."

For those who predicted his demise and the critics who wrote him off as the fool who lost his fortune on a football folly, George - in defensive mode - said: "Just watch me, there is no one and nothing - other than the Grim Reaper - who will stop me now.