Ferry loses star witness as Miller texts her apologies

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She was described in court as a "critical witness", but the actress Sienna Miller failed to turn up for the trial of her friend and fellow socialite Otis Ferry yesterday, after sending a text message to say she could not make it.

The son of the Roxy Music singer Bryan Ferry, from Cross Houses, Shrewsbury, is accused of preventing two photographers from taking pictures of the actress after she left Boujis nightclub in Kensington, west London, in February.

Mr Ferry, 25, a pro-hunt campaigner who came to prominence after storming the House of Commons in 2004 in protest at the proposed ban on fox-hunting, allegedly reached into the car of the paparazzos Charles Pycraft and Ben Brett, grabbing their keys from inside the vehicle and then discarding them.

Ms Miller, 25, was due to appear in court yesterday as a defence witness. But, speaking for the defence, Phillip Lucas said he gathered from the press that Ms Miller was in Mexico, and therefore too busy to attend the hearing.

"I have a witness difficulty in that the actress Sienna Miller is not here," Mr Lucas told West London magistrates' court. "There is not much I can do about it. I'm going to explore the possibility of having a statement read," he added.

Mr Lucas said Ms Miller had indicated her planned absence by text message. "In the last few days she has indicated she cannot make it in a text message," he said. "The information we have from the press is that she is in Mexico. I'm not going to be able to serve a witness summons in Mexico. She is a critical witness from our perspective." The court heard that Ms Miller's absence had been anticipated, and that she was expected to be unavailable today as well. Mr Lucas added that he expected her to return "not far in the future".

District Judge David Simpson said: "I think it is too late in the day to have an adjournment outright, so if anything we are going to be part-heard."

Ms Miller was rumoured to be dating Mr Ferry's younger brother, Isaac, at the time of the incident. Her spokeswoman said she had no intention of turning up for the hearing, knowing that she would be too busy filming. "She is on business overseas," the spokeswoman said. "She has provided a witness statement."

Mr Ferry denies two counts of criminal damage. The court heard Ms Miller was at Boujis for an after-party following the Bafta Awards. When she emerged from the club, she climbed into a silver Mercedes while Mr Ferry and Isaac got into a black Freelander.

The two photographers allegedly followed Ms Miller, who also had a police van travelling behind her, for about a mile from Boujis.

David Bedenham, for the prosecution, said that Mr Ferry, whose brother had been driving the Freelander, grabbed the keys from the ignition of the photographers' car as they pulled up at traffic lights. He said this rendered their vehicle "useless" and left it causing an obstruction in the middle of the road.

Mr Pycraft said that when Mr Ferry knocked on his car window, he thought it might be something to do with the police presence, and didn't realise immediately who it was. "I was thinking about people that the papers and magazines were most interested in, so he [Mr Ferry] would not have been someone I thought of," he said. He added that he thought Mr Ferry might have asked him "Who's in the car?" to which he replied "Miss Miller".

Mr Bedenham added that the registration number of the Freelander had been noted and that Isaac was the registered owner.

The trial is expected to conclude today.