Crowds flock to see press chief tell his version of events

The Gothic-style Royal Courts of Justice on The Strand have hosted among the most sensational of the country's legal battles. But the Hutton inquiry is drawing crowds to match even the most celebrated of cases.

By 8am yesterday, more than 200 members of the public had arrived to claim a seat.

"We have never seen anything like this before," said a security guard as he surveyed the snaking queue. Only a handful of peopleeventually found their way into Court 73, where the inquiry is taking place. A further 100 seats have been set aside in a nearby room for members of the public to witness the proceedings by video link.

The demand from journalists alone has been so great that a 200-seat marquee has been erected in the quadrangle of the building.

Yesterday, interest in the inquiry reached its peak as hundreds of people vied to obtain seats to witness Alastair Campbell explain his version of events.

For Ben Ross, a 22-year-old philosophy graduate from Cambridge University, it was a desire to shed further light on the reasons behind the war on Iraq that enabled him to queue for nearly two hours. "I think we will learn important things about the reasons for why we went to war in Iraq," he said.

"So far I'm impressed with the inquiry. A lot of stuff has come out and Lord Hutton seems to be asking the right questions. All I want to see out of this is the truth."

Richard Horton, 34, a circus performer from Hackney, east London, said: "It will be nice to see Alastair Campbell give his evidence in person.

"I'm not sure if he will tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, but I want to see for myself."

"This is the first time I've been here, but I'm not particularly surprised by the number of people here. This is about fundamental issues, about trust in our Government and our Prime Minister."

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