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Wife hurled knives at MP over 'gay affair'

David Ashby MP once had to lock himself and an elderly male friend in their rooms when his estranged wife began throwing knives and plates after accusing them of having an affair, the High Court heard yesterday.

Mr Ashby, 55, the MP for North West Leicestershire, who is suing for libel over an allegation in the Sunday Times that he is a homosexual, had taken retired civil servant Edward O'Byrne up to his constituency home, Ravenstone House, in June this year, his counsel Geoffrey Shaw QC told the court.

Silvana Ashby, 52, who was convinced her husband was having an affair with a doctor, Ciaran Kilduff, then arrived.

"She was very angry and probably expected to find Dr Kilduff there," Mr Shaw said. "Kitchen knives and plates were thrown at Mr Ashby. Then he got Mr O'Byrne to his room and locked him in and eventually Mr Ashby got to his room and locked himself in, leaving his wife downstairs shouting for some hours."

Mrs Ashby, who split from her husband at the end of 1993, was accompanied in court by their daughter Alexandra, 27.

Mr Ashby is claiming damages over the Sunday Times article in January 1994 which said he had shared a bed with a male friend on a holiday in Goa the previous November.

He says it alleged he was a practising homosexual who had misled Silvana about the nature of his sexuality; that he had lied to the public about having an affair with Dr Kilduff during a trip to France early in 1994; and that he was a hypocrite in emphasising the importance of the family in his last election address.

Times Newspapers Ltd and former Sunday Times editor Andrew Neil deny libel, although they accept Mr Ashby did not holiday with a man in Goa, India. They claim that Mr Ashby was and is having an affair with Dr Kilduff.

Mr Shaw said a private detective had been watching Mr Ashby on behalf of the Sunday Times. He said the newspaper had amended its defence last month to include the allegation that Mr Ashby spent the night of last Bank Holiday Monday, 28 August, with Dr Kilduff in the doctor's flat in Putney, south-west London, for reasons of "mutual homosexual affection".

It had a video showing Mr Ashby arriving at 5.45pm on 28 August and leaving at 8.30am the next morning.

However, Mr Shaw said that Mr Ashby had in fact gone to the flat between 5pm and 6pm to put some plants in the garden before collecting Dr Kilduff from Heathrow at 9.25pm and dropping him off at the flat between 11pm and midnight.

He had gone into the flat for 20 minutes but had spent the night at his flat in Wimbledon before returning early next morning to potter in the garden and have a cup of coffee with Dr Kilduff before leaving at 8.30am.