Archer's key libel trial witness `invented his alibi'

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FRESH ALLEGATIONS of perjury in Lord Archer's libel trial emerged last night when it was reported that the disgraced peer's main witness had invented his alibi.

The late theatrical agent Terence Baker was the pivotal witness in Lord Archer's 1987 victory against the Daily Star, providing evidence on the movements of the peer on the night the paper said he had spent with prostitute Monica Coghlan.

But last night it was reported that Baker had confessed to to Nick Elliot, the head of drama for ITV, that he provided a false alibi during the trial.

Mr Elliot is said to have approached the Daily Star's solicitors, Lovell White Durrant, and is understood to have already given them a statement on Baker's alleged admissions.

The newspaper is seeking the return of the pounds 500,000 damages - at the time a record sum - and pounds 700,000 costs plus interest, a total of around pounds 3m.

The allegation is likely to heap further damage on the novelist who pulled out of the London mayoral contest following revelations last month that another of his witnesses had been urged to change his story relating to events on 9 September, 1986.

The Daily Star had alleged that Lord Archer had on that night slept with Ms Coghlan. But during the three-week hearing, before the London High Court, Baker told the jury that the peer had given him a lift and dropped him off in Camberwell in south London just after 1am following a chance meeting in Le Caprice restaurant. It was crucial evidence as, according to the Daily Star, Lord archer had paid pounds 70 for sex with Ms Coghlan in a hotel a mile away from the restaurant.

But last night it was reported that Mr Elliot told solicitors for the newspaper that Baker, who died in 1991, had told him he had not received a lift home from Lord Archer. the pair had apparently parted company soon after leaving the West End restaurant.

The latest revelation is potentially more damaging than last month's admissions that Lord Archer had persuaded another friend, Ted Francis, to lie for him. Mr Francis never gave evidence in open court but Baker's court appearance will raise the question of a perjury investigation by Scotland Yard.