It was the star turn everyone had been waiting for. Gail Sheridan, the glamorous flight attendant wife of the former Scottish Socialist leader Tommy Sheridan, went into court yesterday to defend her husband over allegations he cheated on her at cocaine-fuelled group sex parties.
Dressed in a light-grey trouser suit, the tanned 42-year-old played nervously with the rings on her perfectly manicured fingers as she brought laughter and tears to the packed Court of Session in Edinburgh.
On day 19 of a £200,000 defamation action against the News of the World Mrs Sheridan was the last witness to be called by her husband, who has represented himself since sacking his legal team midway through.
"I appreciate this is an unusual situation and we know each other by first name, but for the purposes of the court, I'm going to refer to you as Mrs Sheridan," said the 42-year-old MSP for Glasgow as he asked his wife to state her full name, age, address and occupation.
Referring to himself in the third person Mr Sheridan, a teetotaller, asked his wife whether she believed any of the allegations - including that he led a secret life as champagne-drinking, cocaine-snorting, adulterer with a passion for kinky group sex involving spanking, torture and bisexuality.
Mrs Sheridan, who has known the MSP since they were 14, said she thought the claims were ridiculous, and drew laughter when she claimed that if she thought they were true she would have killed him herself. "There's no way I would be here," she said. "And neither would you be. You'd be in the Clyde and I would be in court for murder."
Earlier Mrs Sheridan, who was pregnant with her first child when the allegations first appeared in the News of the World in 2004, said she had felt "sick to the pit of my stomach" over claims her husband had slept with the former Socialist Scottish Party (SSP) member Katrine Trolle, in their home. "It's the worst thing a woman can be told; that another woman has been in your home, in your bed with your man," she said.
"I believe you," said Mrs Sheridan, looking directly at her husband, before adding that she had not just taken his word for it. Mrs Sheridan said she had checked her diaries, his diaries and her company rosters for the time the affairs were supposed to have taken place and was convinced nothing could have happened on many of the dates.
She also said that far from being a party animal her husband was a "boring" man, who preferred to play scrabble and entertain at home rather than go out.
When they weren't at home said Mrs Sheridan, the couple frequently attended official functions. She added that on one of the occasions her husband was supposed to have been involved in group sex he was actually at a charity event with the First Minister Jack McConnell.
Danish-born Ms Trolle, 31, previously told the court she had a four-year relationship with Mr Sheridan, which included a threesome with the MSP and his brother-in-law, Andrew McFarlane, and a visit to a Manchester swingers' club.
When Mr Sheridan asked his wife if she knew Ms Trolle she replied in clipped tones: "Yes, I know her very well." She claimed the last time they met at an SSP conference, after the News of the World's stories in November 2004, Ms Trolle had appeared sympathetic.
Mrs Sheridan claimed Ms Trolle had told her then that the News of the World had offered money to say she had an affair with Mr Sheridan - a suggestion Ms Trolle has denied.
At least twice Mrs Sheridan had to compose herself as she recalled the stress she had been under while pregnant and having to deal with the allegations.
She also raised laughs when she described herself as a "demanding person", who made sure her husband spent weekends at their house in Cardonald, Glasgow, and described Mr Sheridan as a gorilla. Referring to claims that during a sex game ice-cubes had been rolled across his body Mrs Sheridan said: "You are like a monkey. Anybody rolling an ice cube round your body would end up with a hairball in their throat."
Mrs Sheridan said she believed that the allegations against her husband were part of a political plot to undermine his leadership of the Scottish Socialists.
Mrs Sheridan, who was accused by Michael Jones QC for the newspaper of being a "frustrated actress", had to stifle tears as she paid a tribute to her husband: "I have been proud of you many times but I have never, never been more proud of you than I have the last four weeks in this court."
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