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The Archer Affair: Why did Archer try to conceal a dinner with a friend and colleague?

ANDRINA COLQUHOUN, a blond, blue-eyed former debutante, has proved to be a fateful dinner companion not once, but twice. In 1974, Ms Colquhoun was stood up on a dinner-date with Lord Lucan the night his nanny was murdered and he disappeared.

Now she has been revealed as the "close female friend" Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare asked Ted Francis to protect by lying. There is a baffling question. Why would Lord Archer hide a date with Ms Colquhoun, his former personal assistant? That the two were together should be no surprise. She was well-known as a friend and close colleague of Lord Archer when he was a Conservative Party deputy chairman.

Andrina "Andy" Colquhoun, aged 33 in 1986, was known in high society circles. She was wealthy in her right and attracted to powerful risk- taking men. She had been Lord Lucan's last female companion and was waiting for him at the Clermont Club that night in 1974, when Sandra Rivett died. Ms Colquhoun, stepdaughter of Peter Meyer of the Meyer Montague timber company, denied she was Lucan's lover.

She went on to work as a society photographer and became became Jeffrey Archer's personal assistant in the early 1980s. The novelist's wife, Mary, remained at home in Cambridge, while the vivacious Ms Colquhoun acted as hostess at parties in his penthouse overlooking the Thames.

When Lord Archer travelled abroad, Ms Colquhoun went with him. Lord Archer's biographer, Michael Crick, says her duties included cooking on trips to the Caribbean that sometimes lasted six to eight weeks while he was writing his blockbusters. The arrangement ended in 1985.

Nigel Dempster, the gossip columnist at the Daily Mail, said "a condition" of Jeffrey Archer's appointment as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party was "that he regularises his personal affairs".

When Ms Colquhoun left, she acquired Lord Archer's BMW and its famous numberplate ANY 1 which became a familiar sight around her Oxfordshire home. Mary Archer, who had resigned as a Cambridge academic, took over as his hostess. He hired a male personal assistant, David Faber.

Ms Colquhoun is said to have dined with Lord Archer at the Sambuca Restaurant in Chelsea a year after she had left his employ. It was a date so sensitive the peer felt forced to ask Mr Francis to lie to keep it secret. Lord Archer says he did not want Ms Colquhoun dragged into the libel trial.

He was also reported to have been a visitor to his assistant's Oxfordshire cottage when she worked for him. Ms Colquhoun was said to have made no secret of her "admiration" for her employer.

She went on to work for Terence Conran. Her marriage to gambler-businessman Bob Waddington in 1990 was celebrated with a party at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London. They have one child.

Yesterday she appeared in tears after being confronted by reporters at the house in the Oxfordshire village of Sandford St Martin where she had been staying.