Collapse of QC delays trial

The Maxwell Trial; Day 8
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The Independent Online

Financial Correspondent

A defence barrister slumped on to his desk at the Old Bailey yesterday forcing the judge in the trial of Kevin and Ian Maxwell to adjourn proceedings until next week.

The trial finished its opening phase as dramatically as it began when Michael Hill QC put his hand to his head and told Mr Justice Phillips: "I'm sorry, this is simply not going to work."

As the court rose at the Old Bailey, Mr Hill slumped to his desk, one hand holding his chest. He sat at his desk doubled up and looking worried.

After a brief adjournment his junior, James Richardson, said: "Mr Hill is definitely not feeling well and certainly not sufficiently well to continue proceedings today."

The jury of seven men and five were told by the judge that "Mr Hill was not feeling well when we started this morning, he valiantly did his best to carry on. He is simply unable to continue, I have told him he can go home". Jurors were then sent away until Tuesday.

Last night a lawyer said Mr Hill was not seriously ill.

On Monday, the court will sit in closed session to take the video evidence of a witness from Coopers and Lybrand, auditors to the Maxwell companies. The jury, which will not be present, has been told by Mr Justice Phillips that the witness is too ill to give evidence in full open court. Jurors will see the video later in the trial.

On trial are the two youngest sons of Robert Maxwell, Kevin and Ian, and two former financial advisers, Larry Trachtenberg and Robert Bunn. Mr Hill is representing Mr Trachtenberg and was in his second day of cross- examining a key prosecution witness, Trevor Cook, former pensions administrator at Bishopsgate Investment Management (BIM), which managed the Maxwell pensions.

All four deny conspiracy to defraud pension scheme trustees and beneficiaries by misusing pounds 22m worth of shares in an Israeli company, Teva, in a bid to prop up the crumbling Maxwell empire after the tycoon's death in November 1991.