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Saturday, September 25, 1999 Published at 11:38 GMT 12:38 UK

UK Politics

I forgive Clark, says judge

The judge once said Mr Clark should be 'horse-whipped'

A South African judge whose wife and two daughters were seduced by the Conservative MP, Alan Clark, says he has forgiven him.

James Harkness once said Mr Clark should be horse-whipped. But in a letter to The Times he said he was saddened by the MP's death earlier this month.

He added that he and his wife had been praying for him since hearing of his fatal illness.

The judge and his family flew to the UK five years ago, following the publication of Mr Clark's infamous diaries, in an attempt to expose his philandering.

Mrs Harkess and the couple's daughters Josephine and Alison revealed they were the trio referred to in the book as the "coven" of women who Mr Clark said he slept with at his Saltwood Castle home.

They later tried to scupper Mr Clark's political comeback by disrupting his campaign to win the Kensington and Chelsea seat for the Conservatives at the last General Election.

Conversion hope

The maverick MP did admit that he "probably deserved to be horse-whipped" over the affair, but instead of denting his popularity it heightened his reputation as the UK's favourite cad.

In the letter, Mr Harkess said that he and his wife were heartened by Clark's reported conversion to Catholicism shortly before his death, which was later denied by his wife Jane.

"My wife Valerie and I were saddened by the death of Alan Clark for whom we had been praying - particularly since hearing of his illness - and will continue to do so," he wrote.

"We appreciated his desire to be a Catholic, which I understand became a reality on 10 July, shortly before his death.

"Notwithstanding his wife's subsequent denials, I very much hope he did convert."

"If he did indeed find the way, Alan was honest to God and himself," he added. "In any case, we have forgiven him."

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