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Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 09:48 GMT
Puffy 'not taught to open car safe'
Sean Combs
Mr Combs pleads innocent over the charges
Rap star Sean "Puffy" Combs was not taught how to open a secret "safe" in his car in which it is alleged he tried to hide illegal weapons, his chauffeur has told a court.

Bill Williamson - Mr Combs' main chauffeur for three years - testified he had taught only Paul Offord, head of the star's security team, how to open the compartment.

Prosecutors have alleged people in Mr Combs' vehicle tried desperately to open the storage space to hide two guns, as police chased them from the scene of a 1999 New York nightclub shooting.

Mr Combs, 31, is charged with possession of a weapon in connection with the shooting, in which three people were injured, and is also charged with trying to bribe his driver to take the blame.

Jennifer Lopez and Sean Combs
Former girlfriend Jennifer Lopez was with Puffy during the incident
Mr Williamson, 39, had the complex compartment fitted in the car to hold jewellery and cash, according to defence lawyer Benjamin Brafman.

Opening the "trap or safe" involved setting the ignition, radio and temperature controls and a hydraulic latch.

Mr Williamson said he also did not teach the elaborate sequence for accessing the compartment to Wardell Fenderson, the driver working that night, but "he'd seen me open it".

Last week, a police officer testified that he believed the trap was designed to hold guns.

The two counts of gun possession levelled at Mr Combs and his bodyguard, Anthony "Wolf" Jones, 34, pertain to a gun police found in the car, and also to a gun allegedly flung out of the vehicle's window as officers pursued it.

Jamal Barrow
Jamal Barrow: Charged with attempted murder and gun possession
Co-defendant Jamal Barrow, 21, faces charges of attempted murder and gun possession.

Mr Combs, who pleads innocent, is not accused of shooting anyone, but he was arrested after he fled the club with his then girlfriend, actress and singer Jennifer Lopez, who has not been charged.

Three witnesses have testified they saw the rap star holding a gun prior to the shooting.

The three people wounded in the shooting are each seeking a $100m (67.8m) settlement.

On Wednesday, Mr Combs' publicist confirmed rumours that he and Ms Lopez had split up.

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See also:

14 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Puffy and Lopez split
15 Feb 01 | Entertainment
The making of America's hippest couple
09 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Puffy driver 'changed gun story'
08 Feb 01 | Entertainment
Third witness 'saw Puff Daddy armed'
30 Jan 01 | Americas
Puff Daddy in the dock
05 Jan 00 | Entertainment
Puff Daddy proclaims his innocence
14 Jan 00 | Entertainment
'Puffy' hires OJ's lawyer
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