Aitken cuts short California holiday

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The Independent Online
The Jonathan Aitken travel show popped up in two continents over the weekend, as the disgraced former cabinet minister and members of his family appeared and then disap- peared in San Francisco and London .

The former Chief Secretary to the Treasury and defence procurement minister was spotted for the first time since he left Britain following the humiliating collapse of his High Court libel case more than three weeks ago.

Mr Aitken was at San Francisco airport with his son, William. Suntanned and wearing a navy blazer and jeans, he said: "I've been on holiday with my son. We had a great time, lots of sun. It was very enjoyable. I've been advised not to make any comments whatsoever on legal and family matters." He is expected to be questioned under caution by Scotland Yard detectives investigating perjury allegations.

Back in London at the family home in Lord North Street, Westminster, his wife, Lolicia, made a few comments . A Sunday tabloid had allegedly paid a substantial amount for the chat in which she said she was "standing by Jonathan".

Mrs Aitken was wearing ablack wig. The precise colour of her hair had become a matter of evidence at the High Court, when the room charge for her husband's now notorious stay at the Paris Ritz was paid by "a dark- haired woman". The former minister had claimed it was Lolicia; his adversaries, the Guardian and Granada TV, had held it was an assistant of the Saudi Prince Mohammed. Mrs Aitken had been blonde during the case.

Mrs Aitken said: "I forgive Jonathan. I believe we all have God inside us. However wicked people are, there is always something good inside."

"I am at home, this is my home, my daughters are here and they are fine. I am not saying anything about the court case except that everything comes in its own time, and we all pay for our sins. We all have to face the truth".

On the day before he withdrew his defamation action, Mr Aitken announced that he was separating from his wife after 18 years of marriage. Both she and the couple's daughter, Victoria, were due to give evidence under oath supporting the former minister's version of the Paris visit.

Afterwards, Lolicia was blamed by her mother-in-law for the debacle over the Ritz bill. Lady Aitken also said she was glad to hear the couple were divorcing, saying it was "the best thing to come out of all this and was cheap at the price".

Mrs Aitken said: "I am full of forgiveness. Only the truth matters, don't complain, don't explain. That's the advice I'm keeping to at the moment".

She added: "I do feel that Jonathan was holding the sword of truth. Everyone had their bit to say, but everybody will have to face their truth one day." When asked whether she felt her husband did not tell the truth, she responded "no comment".

Mr Aitken and his son had spent the last week at a pounds 500-a -week Sea Ranch property on an isolated stretch of the northern Californian coast. But he cut his holiday short by four days, telling the holiday company "something had come up".

When they left San Francisco, Mr Aitken was due to board a United Airlines jet bound for Paris while William was booked straight through to London.