The Scott Inquiry: Chief inquisitor shows deadly style: Presiley Baxendale QC, a barrister known for demolishing witnesses

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PRESILEY BAXENDALE QC, has interviewed male after male. Some have been respectful, polite; others have been rude and patronising. To all she has been unfailing polite and unflinchingly firm.

As Lord Justice Scott's chief inquisitor, yesterday saw her first interview with a woman. Baroness Thatcher is as tough as they come.

Politeness, preparedness and persistence are hallmarks of Ms Baxendale's style and she is the apparent mistress of more than 100,000 pieces of paperwork.

Yesterday, despite appearing at times unnerved by Lady Thatcher's feisty approach, she stuck to her brief. Laughing and smiling, she caught the former prime minister off-balance on occasion.

Ms Baxendale comes from south London. Her father manufactured Turkish delight. A student at Westminster and later St Anne's College, Oxford, she was noted by lawyers even before she chose to study law. 'What strikes one immediately is her high degree of competence,' Sir Louis Blom-Cooper said.

Her technique involves unravelling word by word, line by line, the evidence of uncooperative or pompous witnesses. Sometimes she simply asks the same question repeatedly until it has been fully answered or the witness's evasiveness has been exposed. Ministers accustomed to throw-away answers in the House of Commons have found Ms Baxendale particularly unnerving. Lord Lester QC described her style: 'She gives the impression of being a push-over. In fact she is very strong personally. You could be deceived by her.'

No longer can it be said of her that her most distinctive feature is her name - Presiley Lamorna Baxendale - voted the most mellifluous at the Bar. She is revered and feared in her own right.