BELEAGUERED Chief Constable Phil Gormley now faces a fourth probe into claims of gross misconduct.

The Police Investigations and Review Commissioner (Pirc), said their assessment of a complaint received on Tuesday — the sixth complaint so far — was that it merited an investigation, and that it is now treating the case as potential gross misconduct.

The chief constable, who has been on special leave since September, denies all of the allegations against him.

Yesterday, in an astonishing development, Gormley’s wife wrote a column for the Daily Mail attacking both Justice Secretary Michael Matheson, and the Pirc.

Claire Gormley accused investigators of going on a “disproportionate fishing expedition” against her husband and suggested he was being “attacked” because he is English.

She also said he had yet to be interviewed by Pirc.

Gormley was cleared to come back to the force last year by the Scottish Police Authority, but that was kiboshed when Matheson intervened to ask if due process had been followed.

Claire, a former Detective Superintendent, who served with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in England and Wales, and who has previously led “inquiries into allegations of bullying against senior officers” used the column to suggest her husband’s demanding ways have rubbed fellow officers the wrong way, which has prompted the allegations of bullying.

Those allegations, she adds, only came out when others in the force learned that there were talks to extend Gormley’s contract.

Claire writes: “He is also challenging and determined to get the job done. He expects his team to perform, to deliver what they have been charged with delivering and will ask difficult questions of them when this appears not to be the case. Isn’t that what the public would want and expect?”

She continues: “All I ask of those who have been fed a diet of half truths and speculation is to consider an alternative narrative. To consider that it might just be the case that my husband has simply done as you would expect of the man leading the second largest police force in the United Kingdom.

“He has simply asked those around him to rise to the challenge and together see Police Scotland evolve, develop and mature into a service Scotland can be proud of.”

Claire also contends Gormley is being targeted because he is an “outsider”. “It is very easy to attack an outsider. Phil doesn’t have a Scottish accent, he was born in Surrey not Stirling.“

The former cop told the paper she had “little trust in the institutions charged with investigating and holding Police Scotland to account”.

She said her husband “is not perfect” but is a “big character” and a “man of vision”.

A spokeswoman for the Pirc said it “continues to carry out thorough and independent investigations into the various allegations about the Chief Constable and recognises their significance”.

She added: “In each case, the Pirc has progressed these enquiries timeously and is conscious of the needs of both the complainers and the Chief Constable, all of whom seek a speedy outcome to these investigations.

“Pirc investigators have interviewed a substantial number of witnesses as part of the evidence gathering process to ascertain the full nature of the allegations which have been made.

“It is right and proper that these interviews took place before interviewing the Chief Constable.

“In response to a request by the Pirc, the chief constable has now provided a list of dates on which he is available for interview”.