Peer led friend to believe that false alibi was to help marriage

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Indy Politics

The man whose revelations led to the downfall of Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare said yesterday he lied to protect the peer from possible divorce rather than to help his libel trial over a prostitute.

The man whose revelations led to the downfall of Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare said yesterday he lied to protect the peer from possible divorce rather than to help his libel trial over a prostitute.

In his first public statement since his account of events appeared in the News of the World, Ted Francis claimed he concocted an alibi for the peer simply to shield him from his wife, Mary. Speaking on Talk Radio, Mr Francis denied he had been motivated either by revenge or money when he revealed the alibi was false and declared that he wanted only to stop Lord Archer from becoming mayor of London.

The former television producer and writer disclosed at the weekend that he was asked by Lord Archer to say they had had dinner together on 9 September 1986 - the date on which the Daily Star originally alleged that Lord Archer met the prostitute Monica Coghlan, although the newspaper later changed the day.

Yet Mr Francis insisted that when he was asked to concoct the alibi, he had no idea it may have any impact on the libel case brought by Lord Archer against the Daily Star.

He only wanted to do his friend a "favour" because Lord Archer claimed he had a dinner date that night with Andrina Colquhoun, his former personal secretary. "He [Lord Archer] said, 'I want you to do me a favour and say we were having a dinner. I was having dinner with somebody else on that night but it would embarrass me with Mary' [Lady Archer]. So will you say it was with you and not with Andrina?' "

Mr Francis said that he was reluctant to write to Lord Archer's lawyer, Lord Mishcon, to concoct the alibi, but agreed because it was a favour to "a mate".

"I said, 'Yes, but if it's going to end in divorce or anything, I'm not going to commit perjury for you'. I did him a favour as a friend because I thought he was going to get into trouble with his wife because he was with a girlfriend," Mr Francis said.

During the entrapment of Lord Archer with the News of the World at the weekend, the novelist made clear he needed the alibi for his action against the Star. But yesterday, Mr Francis denied he was even aware of the connection to the libel trial. "The Monicagate thing wasn't on my mind. I didn't put the two together. I knew that he [Lord Archer] and Andrina were close and I connected it automatically with that. I guess there had been strains put on his marriage by his relationship with Andrina.

"He asked me to write to the lawyer and I thought this was to protect him in a divorce situation. I have no reason to doubt he was where he was on the night it was alleged he was with Monica. I have never conjectured on that. I have never thought about it."

Despite speculation put about by his publicist, Max Clifford, Mr Francis said that he had no further revelations about Lord Archer.

"The things I know, they are mainly anecdotal and in the main they are not of any great relevance."

Stephan Shakespeare, assistant to Lord Archer, said that Mr Francis had made plain that his revelations had nothing to do with the 1987 court case. "He made it absolutely clear that this was one person asking another to help him out with a situation with his wife.

"He has had dinner with a girlfriend, there was no question of it being for a libel trial, there was no question of it being for court, there was no question of it being for perjury. There was no mention of it and Ted Francis has made that absolutely clear. I think what Ted's interview does show is that all this talk of criminal conspiracy and so on is wrong - that wasn't what this was about."

Mr Shakespeare added that Lady Archer was standing by her husband. "They have a very strong marriage. Fortunately Jeffrey has a real bedrock of a family there to draw support from."

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