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Honecker's widow longs for homeland

In Communist East Germany she was nicknamed "the purple witch" because of her striking violet hair rinse and leadership style which led to the children of regime critics being forcibly adopted by the state.

But yesterday Margot Honecker, the 84-year-old widow of former leader Erich Honecker, revealed from exile in Chile – where she fled with her husband in 1992 after the collapse of the communist state – that she pines for the forests of home.

Frank Schuhmann, a German biographer who secured a rare interview with Mrs Honecker, told Berlin's Kurier newspaper that "she lives with her mind in Germany".

"Forests and mushrooms are the things she misses most," he added.

The biographer described her as "tough, very self-assured, sporty and fully awake intellectually".

Schuhmann interviewed Mrs Honecker as part of his research for a forthcoming book on her late husband who was tried for manslaughter in 1992 because of his regime's practice of shooting would-be escapers on sight at the Berlin Wall. He died in 1994 from liver cancer.