Village speculates as couple retreat behind castle gates: 'Weird' and 'aloof' lord of the manor provides locals with gossip. Steve Boggan reports
Thursday 02 June 1994
That's what Alan Clark, the former defence minister, did yesterday when news reached him that James Harkess, a former judge, was on his way to confront him for sleeping with his wife and two step-daughters. 'I've heard they're coming, but I'm just happy to have nothing to do with it,' Mr Clark told the Independent at the gates of Saltwood Castle.
I suppose you're also happy that you live in a castle?
'Hmm. Goodbye,' he said.
Earlier, while walking the family rottweilers with his wife, Jane, outside the walls of their pounds 8m, 12th-century home near Hythe in Kent, Mr Clark was more forthcoming.
Having agreed that he should be horsewhipped for having affairs with Valerie Harkess, 57, and her daughters, Josephine, 34, and Alison, 36, he at least defended himself over Josephine's claims that he showed her his 'willy' when she was only 13. He blamed Max Clifford, the family's publicist, for inventing the story.
Mr Clark and Mrs Clark spent the rest of the day behind the walls of the castle, the site at which the murderers of Thomas a Becket hatched their plot, and the location for a TV advertisement for breakfast cereal.
Several hundred yards away, in Saltwood village, the locals were dining out on tales of their philandering lord of the manor. Most said he was aloof; some said he was weird; all agreed he was anything but boring. 'It's the talk of the village,' said Deepakben Patel, the postmistress. 'He loves the publicity - always has - but this has shocked some people. The ones with young daughters say they won't let them anywhere near him from now on. Others say that he should be castrated.'
However, Mrs Patel admitted that she had been harbouring a grudge against Mr Clark since he cancelled his daily delivery of the Times, Daily Telegraph and Financial Times when he discovered another shop could do it for 3p a week less.
Many complained that he never opened his castle to the public. 'It would make money for everyone in the village if he did,' said Carole Waters, landlady of the Castle Hotel. 'He never comes in here, but we wish he would. He sounds fascinating.'
Sarah Giles, 15, wandered into the grounds briefly two weeks ago when a friend told her the castle was open. 'I went in to ask if it was OK but he sent me away. He was weird - he had on a shiny shirt and mirrored sunglasses.'
Max Clifford might have been interested to know that Mr Clark touched - or tapped - Sarah on the shoulder before asking her to leave.
But Mr Clifford had more important things to ponder yesterday - how, for example, to keep the story hot.
'The judge would love to confront Mr Clark but it won't be up at the castle,' he said. And raising the stakes to presidential magnitude, he added: 'I think I'd like to see them talking face to face. Perhaps . . . some sort of TV debate.'
- 2 Harry Potter fans can apply to the Hogwarts-inspired College of Wizardry
- 3 Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
- 4 Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
- 5 Orange Wednesdays are no more
Weather bomb in pictures: Storms cuts power for tens of thousands – and snow is on the way
Jessica Chambers: 19-year-old woman 'doused with lighter fluid and burned alive' in the US
Russell Brand calls Nigel Farage 'poundshop Enoch Powell' in BBC Question Time debate
Russell Brand was rendered speechless on Question Time by this man
Fury at Airbus after it hints the super-jumbo may be mothballed
Disgruntled RBS worker writes hilarious open letter to Russell Brand after anti-capitalist publicity stunt leaves him hungry
Nigel Farage defends Kerry Smith 'ch***y' comment: 'If you are going for a Chinese, what do you say you’re going for?'
Nigel Farage's approval rating hits 'record low' as popularity suffers in wake of Ukip sex scandal
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Pakistan school attack live: Taliban kill at least 132 children in 'horrifying' massacre
Sony hack: Angelina Jolie branded 'seriously out of her mind' in further embarrassing leaked email saga
Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: Exeter - An excellent opportunity for a Solici...
£17000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Helpdesk Support Technician - 12 ...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Maintenance...
£30000 - £38000 per annum + pesion + holidays: The Jenrick Group: World Wide S...