Norma lent me Antonia Fraser’s book “Must you go?,” recently book of the week on radio 4, the story of her marriage to Harold Pinter. As I read it I remembered some distant connections with my life.
Antonia was the daughter of Lord Longford, celebrated as a visitor of prisoners notably Myra Hindley.
Dr. Eric Jewesbury often invited me to small dinner parties in his St. John’s Wood flat. At one of these I was seated next to Dr. John Harman, the father of Harriet Harman and also brother of Lady Longford.
He was the expert medical witness for Dr. John Bodkin Adams at his trial on the charge of murdering several of his elderly patients who left him money in their wills. The Adams trial from Wikipedia:
John Bodkin Adams (21 January 1899 – 4 July 1983) was an Irish-born British general practitioner, convicted fraudster and suspected serial killer. Between the years 1946-1956, more than 160 of his patients died under suspicious circumstances. Of these 132 left him money or items in their will. He was tried and acquitted for the murder of one patient in 1957. Another count of murder was withdrawn by the prosecution in what was later described as “an abuse of process” by the presiding judge Patrick Devlin, causing questions to be asked in Parliament about the prosecution’s handling of events. The trial featured in headlines around the world and was described at the time as “one of the greatest murder trials of all time” and “murder trial of the century”. It was also described at the time as “unique” because, in the words of the judge, “the act of murder” had “to be proved by expert evidence.”
My friend Anne Michael was also a patient of Dr. Adams when she was a schoolgirl at a boarding school in Eastbourne.
On page 207 Antonia describes the Pinochet judgment in the House of Lords:
General Pinochet had been head of State in Chile and a Dictator, during years in which countless people had been tortured. It was 25 November 1998. If the appeal was allowed Pinochet was in trouble. Five law lords gave their opinion. The first 2 gave ‘disallowed’, the next 2 gave ‘allowed’ and the last and casting vote was Lord Hoffman‘s. How we loved him because he gave ‘allowed’. It was the first time such a judgment had been televised.
In the 80s I wrote briefs and instructed Counsel for HMRC in the Companies winding up Court. We appeared many times before Lord Hoffman who, if we made our case, wound up companies owing VAT unless they paid me the money just before the Court sat – as did quite a few.
After I retired Claudia Roden asked me to take Cesar, our grandson, to play with the Hoffmans’ grandson who was on holiday from South Africa. During lunch with Lord and Lady hoffman I was able to remind him that I had been in his court many times. To me he always looked kindly, never grim as he appeared to Antonia.
Tom vaguely remembers Antonia Frasers sons at Ampleforth. Presumably they and he did not stand out as being especially wicked or brilliant.