Key witness in Archer case 'seriously ill' after motorbike crash

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A vital witness in the police inquiry into claims that Lord Archer conspired to pervert the course of justice during his 1987 libel trial was last night seriously ill after a motorcycle crash in Thailand.

A vital witness in the police inquiry into claims that Lord Archer conspired to pervert the course of justice during his 1987 libel trial was last night seriously ill after a motorcycle crash in Thailand.

Michael Stacpoole, who claimed that he was given £2,000 by the Tory peer to pay off prostitute Monica Coghlan, has been left unable to speak and is feared to have suffered brain damage in the collision.

The 62-year-old former confidant to the millionaire novelist became a key part of the case against Lord Archer after he claimed last year that he was paid £40,000 to "disappear" during the trial 13 years ago.

But the chances of Mr Stacpoole giving testimony in a trial were considerably reduced by the accident yesterday afternoon in the resort of Pattaya, where he now lives.

Doctors said the Briton, who was Lord Archer's "bag carrier" at the time of the Coghlan scandal in 1986, may have suffered irreversible brain damage in the crash.

A spokesman for the Bangkok Pattaya Hospital said: "Mr Stacpoole was severely concussed and bleeding from his ears. We do not yet know the extent of his head injury or any subsequent brain damage.

"He is only partially responding to communication and cannot speak. A decision will be taken overnight whether it is necessary for him to undergo surgery."

The collision, at 3.30pm local time (9.30am BST), happened just three months after he suffered a stroke, which left him partially paralysed.

The loss of his testimony against Lord Archer in any eventual trial over claims that the peer conspired to influence witnesses ahead of the libel trial would considerably dent any prosecution case.

Mr Stacpoole has pledged to testify that the millionaire novelist paid him to move abroad so he could not be called to give evidence about allegations that Lord Archer slept with Ms Coghlan in a London hotel.

The former aide also claimed that he went to Victoria Station to hand £2,000 in an envelope from the peer to Ms Coghlan in return for an undertaking that she would not go public. Lord Archer eventually won record damages of £500,000 and £700,000 in costs against the Daily Star.

A dossier of evidence was handed to the Crown Prosecution Service last week after a nine-month investigation by Scotland Yard's Serious Fraud Squad into the allegations against Lord Archer.

A decision on whether Lord Archer will face charges, possibly either perjury or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, is expected to be made within the next few weeks.

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