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The BBC's Jon Silverman
"The jury has heard that they drank vintage champagne at Mr Al Fayed's expense"
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Monday, 13 December, 1999, 21:03 GMT
Christine Hamilton in tears

Christine Hamilton Christine Hamilton: Cash claims are 'nonsense'

The wife of former Conservative MP Neil Hamilton has denied allegations that he received cash from Harrod's owner Mohammed al-Fayed.

Libel Trial
Christine Hamilton, 50, broke down in tears after telling the High Court that the allegations had been "devastating" and the subsequent libel case "agonising".

Mr Hamilton is suing Mr al-Fayed over claims made on Channel 4's Dispatches programme that he took cash for asking parliamentary questions on the Egyptian-born businessman's behalf.

Mrs Hamilton looked nervous as she took the witness stand for the first time, but spoke initially in a clear, loud voice.

She dismissed as "nonsense" the claim that her husband had, on eight occasions between 1987 and 1989, received cash sums of 2,500.

Asked by her husband's counsel, Desmond Browne QC, whether she had ever seen any sign of the money, she said: "Absolutely not! No".

Mohammed al-Fayed Mr al-Fayed denies libel
"If he had had it, he'd have given it to me, because I empty his pockets of change very night," she said. "He just wouldn't have known what to do with it."

Mrs Hamilton, who was the Tatton MP's secretary until he lost his seat at the last election, also denied ever having had vouchers or free shopping from Harrods.

But she said her husband had brought back "a couple of ties", the odd bottle of whisky and a "slightly effeminate" Harrods tartan briefcase which had never been used.

It's absolutely grotesque - the way it's been blown up out of all proportion
Christine Hamilton
Asked if she had ever telephoned Mr al-Fayed's secretary, Alison Bozek, inquiring if an envelope was ready for collection, Mrs Hamilton replied: "No - why would I have done that? No."

Mrs Hamilton said she had only met Mr al-Fayed twice - once to shake hands at a polo match at Windsor and again at a Christmas drinks party in Chelsea.

'"Have a good time" - we did'

Mrs Hamilton was asked at length about the couple's six-night stay at The Ritz in Paris in September 1987, as guests of Mr al-Fayed, during which they ran up an extras bill of more than 3,000 in today's prices.

She denied that it was strange to accept such an invitation from somebody who was just an acquaintance to her - although her husband had been acting "on behalf of" Mr al-Fayed for four years.

She also denied the couple had been "greedy" while at the hotel.

No vouchers, no money, no collection, no couriers - nothing
Christine Hamilton
"We just thought (Mr al-Fayed) was genuine, we took him at his word - come and stay in the hotel and enjoy yourselves, have a good time - and we did.

"It just didn't cross my mind that it was going to be turned against me so many years later."

Asked about the Dispatches broadcast, Mrs Hamilton said it was "devastating" and she was "desperately upset" as they watched it in their flat.

She said her husband was "absolutely horrified and furious, angry".

She said the subsequent High Court action had been "immensely stressful, terribly time-consuming, hurtful, agonising," and that her husband had lost a stone and a half in weight since it began.

But she said he "has been absolutely determined all the way through to clear his name".

Denies Mobil 'corruption'

Later, under cross-examination by George Carman QC, Mrs Hamilton denied that her husband had "corruptly" taken 10,000 from Mobil oil company.

I don't know, I'm sorry, I've just had a mental block, I can't remember, I'm sorry
Christine Hamilton
As far as she was concerned, the payment was "honourable and all above board", she said.

With her voice rising, she said: "It's absolutely grotesque - the way it's been blown up out of all proportion."

'Mental block'

During her re-examination by Desmond Browne QC began, Mrs Hamilton repeatedly said that she could not follow his questions and seemed to be on the point of collapse.

Several times she said: "I don't know, I'm sorry, I've just had a mental block, I can't remember, I'm sorry."

artists impression of Mrs Hamilton in court Mrs Hamilton broke down in the witness box
Mrs Hamilton burst into tears when she described how she and her husband had visited his office a few days after his resignation in October 1994.

"It's alright, I'm alright," she said, as she described how her husband said his goodbyes, picked up a few personal photographs and collected a letter from Mobil's then group taxation manager, expressing his "shock" at the MP asking for a fee from the company.

As Mrs Hamilton returned to her seat, her clearly emotional husband stood up and put his arm around her shoulders.

The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday.

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See also:
10 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton 'paid 10,000 to change Bill'
10 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton denies deceiving MPs
09 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton admits Ritz 'shame'
06 Dec 99 |  UK
Hamilton 'asked firm for cash'

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