Secretary 'bought gifts for Archer's girlfriends'

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The Independent Online

Jeffrey Archer's former secretary regularly bought designer gifts for his mistress and girlfriends on her credit card to keep his reputation "whiter than white", an Old Bailey jury was told yesterday.

Angela Peppiatt, 56, told the court that the former deputy chairman of the Conservatives often sent her to Harrods and Aspreys, among others, to buy gifts for Andrina Colquhoun, her predecessor as Lord Archer's secretary, who continued to make frequent visits to his London apartment overlooking the Thames.

Mrs Peppiatt said among the entries on her credit card statements from 1986 was an item from Gucci, which was "the type of gift I would have been asked to buy for Andy [Colquhoun] ­ Andy was Jeffrey's mistress at the time."

Asked by Nicholas Purnell QC, for the defence, what other items were on the statement, she replied: "There are possible items I would have got Jeffrey from the chemist. There were items on there which, yes, I did buy for myself. But the whole point of my credit card was that it was kept so it could be used at any time. It could be used if Jeffrey needed me to get something, whether it was for Andy or whoever. My credit card was the one that was used during the time when he was deputy chairman."

Earlier, Mrs Peppiatt thanked the judge for allowing her to look through the 14-year old credit card statements, which had reminded her of expenditure that did not relate to her. "I don't think Jeffrey will be very happy about this. It is something I have not talked about before; items I have bought on his behalf, and I have documentation.

"He was meant to be whiter than white during this period after his trial. He still had his mistress, he still had other girlfriends that came to the flat. I was very much part of what that was all about."

Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare, 61, resigned as Tory deputy chairman in October 1986 after the Daily Star printed allegations that he had slept with a prostitute. Mrs Peppiatt said she falfisied diary entries at his request before his 1987 libel case against the newspaper, in which he won record damages of £500,000.

She reacted angrily to Mr Purnell's suggestion that if there had been a false diary, it had been one used to cover her tracks. She said: "I was asked to fill in a blank diary by Lord Archer, which is what I did. I deeply, deeply regret doing it ­ am I paying for it now?"

Mrs Peppiatt confirmed that she had claimed personal items, including designer shoes and a Greek holiday with her children, on expenses.

She also had access to blank, signed chequebooks kept in a picnic hamper at Lord Archer's home but denied she had been sacked from her £22,000 job in December 1987 after using the cheques to issue unauthorised bonuses. "I resigned because Jeffrey had agreed on our bonuses and then he went back on it." His accountant had told her to write out the cheques but "they were not paid because Jeffrey had stopped them".

After consulting her solicitor at the time, she said she had decided not to sue. "Jeffrey Archer had just taken on two national newspapers and won his case ­ you don't sue Jeffrey Archer," she said. "He did not make an allegation that I stole. He disputed certain expenses."

Mrs Peppiatt said she was divorced at the time and her former husband had gone broke, but she had to stay in credit so her card was always available.

Lord Archer denies four charges of perverting the course of justice, two charges of perjury and one of using a false instrument (the diary) in relation to the 1987 libel trial.

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