Thatcher comes to town as her son goes to ground

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BARONESS Thatcher arrives in Dallas today to address more than 1,000 members of the Texas business community who have paid up to pounds 10,000 for a charity lunch billed as 'A Conversation with a Living Legend'.

Meanwhile, the mock- Georgian house in the expensive Highland Park area of Dallas belonging to her son, Mark, was empty yesterday, except for a maid who said she had no idea where he, his wife, Diane, and their two children were.

'Haven't seen him for a while,' said Joe Abbey, a neighbour. 'But he's a very busy man, a very nice man. We all like the Thatchers around here and think they are good neighbours. He had us over to a function in his house once. It's very tasteful and he has lots of mementoes of his travels. He used to be into oil concessions and he has pictures of Saudi oil wells on the walls.'

Lady Thatcher was yesterday pursued around the Tory party conference by reporters seeking, unsuccessfully, her views on claims that her son received pounds 12m for his role in the pounds 20bn Al- Yamamah arms deal she signed with Saudi Arabia.

She looked pale and gaunt. A variety of reasons for her appearance were reported: she was on a strict diet; she had recently had extensive dental treatment; she was worried about her son; and she had just heard her son was to be divorced.

Lady Thatcher will fly to Dallas on Concorde and is expected to stay at the Mansion on Turtle Creek, one of the world's most expensive hotels, before her appearing at the Loews Anatole hotel.

'We managed to book her up two years ago because she's a personal friend of Charles Simmons, a local oil investor,' said Carole Sonnenberg, spokeswoman for the event. 'This is our fifth Living Legends lunch but we wanted her from the start. We've had no trouble selling the tickets.'

Lady Thatcher, who is following in the footsteps of legends such as the golfer Arnold Palmer and the US television personality Walter Cronkite, will be interviewed by a local television anchorman, Chip Moody, who survived cancer after treatment at the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, which will benefit from the proceeds of the event.

Lady Thatcher will receive no fee, but it is said she will be paid for an appearance tonight before about 2,000 people at a Thatcher Foundation event held at a university in Dallas. Tickets are selling at pounds 40 a head.

Saudi arms inquiry, page 2

A mother's love, page 22