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EDITIONS
Monday, 2 July, 2001, 18:50 GMT 19:50 UK
Archer 'asked friend to lie'
Ted Francis
Ted Francis denies perverting the course of justice
Lord Archer asked a friend for an alibi for the night he was accused of having sex with a prostitute, the Old Bailey has been told.

Ted Francis - who denies one charge of perverting the course of justice - told the court he thought he was helping to save Lord Archer's marriage and did not known he was involved in a libel case.

Mr Francis was giving evidence on Monday, as Lord Archer's own defence case was formally closed without him giving evidence.


He [Lord Archer] told me that he was having a problem with Mary over his affair with Andrina

Ted Francis
The former Tory peer denies dishonesty charges arising from his successful 1987 libel action, in which he won 500,000 damages from the Daily Star over allegations that he slept with prostitute Monica Coghlan.

Mr Francis said that in January 1987 Lord Archer contacted him and invited him to the Sambuca restaurant for dinner.

Roy Amlot QC, defending Mr Francis, asked him to recollect "the gist" of what Lord Archer wanted.

Mr Francis said: "He asked me if we had had dinner together, if it was possible we had dinner together there in the previous September in 1986.

"He told me that he was having a problem with Mary over his affair with Andrina and that he had promised her that the affair was over, but that he had had dinner with her in September and was worried that Mary might find out."

Francis said Lord Archer had told him it was a very serious matter that could lead to the break-up of his marriage.

Payment

"He said would I be prepared to say we had had dinner there in September the previous year, and so I agreed," Mr Francis told the court.

"He said he wanted me to write to his solicitors saying we had had dinner that particular night.

"Initially, I thought very hard about it. I was a bit concerned about it, but if it was in the cause of preventing his marriage breaking-up, I thought no harm would be done."

Asked if he believed what he had been told, he said: "Oh yes."

Mr Francis said he did not realise at the time that there was a libel action pending, although he had read the newspaper allegations at the time they were published.

Asked if it had entered his mind that he might be called to court, Mr Francis said: "No. In fact, I said to Jeffrey `If it comes to divorce, I am not going to commit perjury. I am certainly not going to give evidence'."

Lord Archer
Archer: Cleared of one of seven dishonesty charges
Mr Francis said he wrote to Archer's solicitor Lord Mishcon saying they had had dinner on 9 September 1986.

When the solicitor wrote back in March asking him to clarify what time he had got home, he wrote saying he it was in time to receive an 11.20pm call from America.

It was from Kojak actor Telly Savalas agreeing to take the role of the villain in Ship of Adventure, an Enid Blyton project he was trying to get off the ground.

Before Christmas, he had unsuccessfully approached Lord Archer about finance for the project.

Soon after the dinner he received 12,000 cash from him - although he said he signed an agreement with Lord Archer for 20,000.

Mr Francis said: "I think I considered that having agreed to help him, he agreed to help me."

Lord Archer denies three counts of perverting the course of justice, two counts of perjury and one of using a diary as a false instrument.

The trial continues.

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