Archer 'lied to Thatcher about having a mistress'

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The Independent Online

Jeffrey Arche lied to Margaret Thatcher or the Conservative Party chairman over an alleged affair with his mistress as part of a cover-up to keep his reputation "whiter than white", a jury at the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

The court heard that Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare had an affair with Andrina Colquhoun while he faced allegations of having sex with a prostitute and throughout the lead-up to a libel case he brought against the Daily Star.

The bestselling novelist's former secretary, Angela Peppiatt, said Lord Archer's personal life had been put through intense scrutiny at the libel trial, at which he won £500,000 damages in July 1987.

Lord Archer, who always denied having sex with a prostitute, resigned his position as deputy chairman of the Conservative Party after the News of the World first printed a story that accused him of arranging for Monica Coghlan to be given an envelope of money at Victoria railway station.

Yesterday Mrs Peppiatt told the peer's defence barrister: "Jeffrey had assured, whether it was the chairman or the Prime Minister, that ... his relationship with Andy was no longer going on and it patently was."

Mrs Peppiatt said Andrina Colquhoun, his previous secretary and alleged mistress, had become deeply involved in Lord Archer's "projects" such as refurbishing a bathroom at his flat overlooking the Thames and by the date of the libel trial they had pet names for each other. He was known as Moon and she as Roonett. At one stage Lord Archer bought two sets of jewellery from the same shop ­ one for his wife, Mary, and one for Miss Colquhoun.

Mrs Peppiatt indicated that the relationship had become so serious that Ms Colquhoun harboured hopes that Lord Archer would marry her.

Asked about why she had produced invoices for the bathroom dating from November 1986 to May 1987, Mrs Peppiatt said: "I took these original documents because I suppose it was because Jeffrey was saying to the outside world once again that he was whiter than white, and was not having any extra-marital affairs and ­ under our very noses ­ we knew what was going on."

Lord Archer's counsel, Nicholas Purnell QC, said the reference to what Lord Archer did outside his marriage was not made during the libel trial, the only issue was whether he had slept with the prostitute.

Mr Purnell suggested that Miss Colquhoun's liaison with Lord Archer was "public knowledge". Mrs Peppiatt denied the suggestion. She said: "No, it was in the newspapers when he took on his role as deputy chairman that he had finished his relationship with Andy."

She said it was one of the reasons Miss Colquhoun had stopped working for him and why she had been employed.

Mrs Peppiatt said she resigned at the end of December 1987 when Lord Archer queried her expenses.

He called her on Christmas Eve querying payments, including her annual bonus ­ all items she says he authorised.

Mr Purnell read a letter from Lord Archer in which he said he had found by chance "that you had given yourself a £10,000 bonus" and "had instructed my accountants to give you another £6,000 while you were abroad". He queried 11 of his personal cheques, which she had made out for a total of £12,000. On New Year's Eve her bank told her the cheques had been stopped. She said she was "shattered" by his action. She wrote back complaining of his "shabby treatment" of her in their three-year close working relationship and said it was "something I will remember the rest of my life".

Lord Archer denies four counts of perverting justice, two counts of perjury and one of using a false instrument.

His former friend Ted Francis, 67, a television producer from Surrey, denies one charge of perverting the course of justice.The trial continues.