Star witness for News of the World's Max Mosley case backs out

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The Independent Online

There was a dramatic twist yesterday in the privacy action by the motorsport chief Max Mosley against the News of the World over what it called a "sick Nazi orgy" when its star witness, woman E, failed to give evidence. The newspaper's QC, Mark Warby, said her "emotional and mental state is such that it would not be fair or reasonable to call her to give evidence".

E, a dominatrix who secretly filmed the sadomasochistic session at a Chelsea flat in March, was to give evidence along with her husband.

Mr Warby told Mr Justice Eady at London's High Court: "This morning, at about 10 to eight, I received information which has later been elaborated on which leads those instructing me and my clients to take the view that her emotional and mental state is such that it would not be fair or reasonable to call her to give evidence."

Because of that, he added, he was not maintaining the case that instructions were given to E by another woman, A, which originated from Mr Mosley, about a Nazi theme. He said: "We will not persist in that case. It is a most regrettable situation to have arrived at."

But Mr Warby emphasised that the newspaper was not abandoning the proposition that there was in fact a Nazi theme: that would continue on the basis of other evidence.

The newspaper's chief reporter, Neville Thurlbeck, has told the court E told him she had been informed by A that her instructions from Mr Mosley were that the orgy was to have a Nazi theme, and that woman A and woman B were expected to wear German uniforms. He said that there was an "overwhelming, absolutely overwhelming Nazi theme" to the footage.

The newspaper's editor, Colin Myler, has said that he believed the story was one of "legitimate public interest and one that I believe was legitimately published". It was "absolutely not true" that the paper fabricated the Nazi aspect of the story, he said. He concluded it was Nazi based on his knowledge of history and the connotations of the role-playing during the session.

Mr Mosley, the 68-year-old son of the 1930s Fascist leader Sir Oswald Mosley, says his life was devastated by the exposé of what the newspaper called a "sick Nazi orgy with five hookers", and is asking for an unprecedented award of punitive exemplary damages.

Mr Price has said that the "gross and indefensible intrusion" was made substantially worse by the entirely false suggestion that Mr Mosley, president of the FIA (Federation Internationale de l'Automobile) was playing a concentration camp commandant, and a cowering death camp inmate.

The development meant that the case was adjourned until Monday for counsel to prepare their closing speeches.

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