As the person in whose apartment Stephen Ward was staying at the time that he took the overdose of barbiturates, I have been following the controversy between the writers Tom Mangold and Anthony Summers (Letters, 22 December).
Contrary to what Mr Summers has said, I can state with absolute certainty that I have never refused to comment to anybody about this tragic and disgraceful affair.
I can state with equal certainty that nobody fed Stephen Ward his Nembutal. He took his overdose in the next room to the one in which I was trying to sleep, and I could even hear him striking the matches to light his cigarettes; no voices, door bell or knock, no MI5 agents, no Polish assassins, in short, nobody.
For Mr Summers' version to carry any credibility, he would have to assume that somebody else wrote over a dozen suicide letters to everybody from me to the judge, counsel, journalists etc. Indeed, killing a man who had just expressed his intent to kill himself would appear to have been redundant, even in those days when "overkill" was a term in frequent use.
Given the Royal Family's delight in bloodsports, why did you make such a thing of Prince William signing up for your elephant poaching campaign (Page one, 22 December)?
The front page should have had a photograph of these magnificent creatures – the elephants. I thought that was what the campaign was about? Print Prince Williams' contributions inside.
DJ Taylor underlines the Victorian invention of Christmas traditions ("Bah to the humbuggers", 22 December) and suggests that even if few know the true meaning of the festival it is worth having a celebration at this time of year anyway. I agree, but it is surely time to reclaim the more radical festival of Twelfth Night on 6 January, which the Victorian Christmas aimed to replace. Epiphany was traditionally focused on a Lord of Misrule and the turning upside down of authority, sometimes leading to riots. This more robust winter tradition speaks to the times we live in.
Hamish McRae indicates (22 December) that the thing we have to fear is too much optimism. That may be so, but a greater fear might be too much prosperity.
Some time ago, in a letter to The Independent, I indicated that increasing prosperity, or apparent prosperity, (they are not the same thing) could undo our fragile economy. I suggested that there is no longer the capacity in the British manufacturing sector to meet demand created at a time when, whether justified or not, the "feel-good factor" is in operation. I also argued that this would lead to an increase in manufactured imports which might otherwise have been supplied by British producers.
Mr McRae, in an email sent to me, suggested that the London based service sector would fill the gap created by manufactured imports. I was sceptical at the time and it seems that my fears were justified.
Your sister paper published an article, by Russell Lynch, (21 December) entitled "Britain's deficit soars to highest for 24 years". In it, Mr Lynch points out that the deficit rose to £20.7bn for the third quarter of the present year compared with £6bn for the second quarter.
Perhaps Mr McRae still believes that, like the US Cavalry, London will ride to the rescue! Is it not about time that this myth is felled once and for all?
Roger Barstow Frost
I disagree with your editorial that the "best protection for witnesses is that afforded by public opinion" (Leading article, 22 December). A video link would protect witnesses who feel vulnerable in court, because by simply having a delay to allow the judge to decide if the barrister's question is fair and not intimidatory allows witnesses to be protected. Why subject witnesses to aggressive barristers and rely on juries to sympathise with the witness?
West Bromwich, West Midlands
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