Ashby 'acted like Jekyll and Hyde in witness box'

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The Independent Online

The evidence to support the claim that David Ashby, the Tory MP, is homosexual was "overwhelming", and to accept otherwise would be as foolish as believing in Father Christmas, a High Court libel jury was told yesterday.

Mr Ashby, MP for Leicestershire North West and a barrister, was branded a "pompous and arrogant" man by Richard Hartley, QC for the Sunday Times in the MP's libel action against the newspaper and Andrew Neil, former editor, over allegations he his gay.

Although Mr Ashby, 55, admits he shared a double bed with Dr Ciaran Kilduff, his neighbour in south-west London after he separated from his wife, he denies they were physically intimate. The two men spent the night in a 4ft 8in bed on a trip to northern France.

Mr Hartley said the only conclusion the jury could draw from their stay at the Chateau Tilques hotel, in St Omer, was that Mr Ashby and Dr Kilduff were having an affair.

"If you don't come to that conclusion, you are in the realm of people believing in Father Christmas, or that babies are delivered by storks," Mr Hartley said. "What else goes on in a double-bedded room?"

Mr Hartley dismissed Mr Ashby's suggestion that he had no money and had considered applying for legal aid in matrimonial proceedings against Silvana Ashby, his estranged wife, as "utter humbug". "Do you think the genuine homeless in London and in our inner cities would have any sympathy for Mr Ashby in those circumstances?" he asked.

Mr Hartley condemned Mr Ashby as a Jekyll-and-Hyde character who would burst into tears in the witness box one minute, and be laughing the next.

But Geoffrey Shaw, QC for Mr Ashby, said the politician had been a gregarious man who had been the victim of vicious lies planted by journalists and his destructive family.

He compared Mrs Ashby to Othello, after she gave evidence for the Sunday Times that her husband told her he was homosexual when their marriage broke down. Mr Shaw said she was a strong personality and accused her of obsessive jealousy.

"Jealousy is one of the strongest and certainly one of the most unpleasant of the emotions governing human sexual relationships," he said. "It's the green-eyed monster which doth mock the flesh it feeds on - Silvana Ashby's flesh."

Mr Shaw told the jury that Mr Ashby would be disbarred as a barrister if it could be shown that he had committed perjury, and he asked the jury not see the case through the eyes of the "gutter press".

"If you've got a mind like a gutter journalist . . . then you might think it possible to suspect from two men admittedly sharing a bed there has been some hanky-panky going on."