Monica Coghlan

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Monica Coghlan (3 April[1] 1951 – 27 April 2001) was the English sex worker at the centre of a scandal that involved British Conservative politician Jeffrey Archer in 1987. Although he won a libel case against the Daily Star newspaper, which had alleged that he had sex with her, it was later established, in legal proceeding in 2001, that he had perjured himself in the trial. Archer was jailed for this in July 2001. Coghlan died in a car crash shortly before the second trial and Archer's subsequent conviction.

Early life[edit]

Monica Mary Coghlan was born on 3 April 1951, in Rochdale, the sixth of seven children. She had a troubled childhood, leaving home and school at the age of 15. While living alone, the diminutive (1.50 m, 4' 11", as an adult) teenager suffered a violent sexual attack and was forced to leave her flat. She first worked as a cloakroom attendant at a local cabaret, then became a prostitute at the age of 17. Her work alias was 'Debbie'. She was arrested multiple times for soliciting in the Greater Manchester area, and moved to London. Other arrests led to convictions for cannabis possession and shoplifting. She served two prison terms. All the time she concealed what she did from her family, telling them she worked in property.[2][3]

She became pregnant, and for a short time retired from prostitution, returning to live in Rochdale to raise her son, Robin Daley Coghlan (born 1984, Rochdale).[4] When her boyfriend died unexpectedly, she returned to prostitution, leading a double life "to secure the boy's future"; she cared for the toddler during the week, then left him with friends or relatives on weekends, to commute by train to London to work.[3]

Jeffrey Archer[edit]

One of Coghlan's clients, in September 1986, was Jeffrey Archer, then the Conservative Party's Deputy Chairman, whom she met in Shepherd Market, Mayfair. Aziz Kurtha, an Indian businessman, sold the story of Archer seeing a prostitute to a tabloid newspaper. On 24 October 1986, the News of the World filmed and audiotaped Michael Stacpoole, a representative of Jeffrey Archer, giving Coghlan £2,000 in £50 notes on Platform 3 of London's Victoria station to leave the country to avoid reporters. Coghlan earned £6,000 from the newspapers for taking part in the sting operation. Archer admitted to giving Coghlan travel funds, but sued the bolder Daily Star for printing that he and Coghlan had had sex for money.[2][3]

During the trial, Coghlan broke down in tears repeatedly on cross-examination, but continued to assert the truth of the newspaper's story, dramatically calling Archer a liar in court. In other testimony she stated that she enjoyed her job as a prostitute, and defended her work with married clients, saying that "Half the time it keeps marriages together." She regretted that she couldn't go back to work after the trial. "Jeffrey Archer took everything away from me," she would later say. "I lost my home, my dignity, my self-respect, and any hope of a future."[3][5]

The amount allegedly given by Archer to Coghlan, £2,000, is now known in English slang as "an Archer".[6]

After the trial[edit]

After the trial, Coghlan posed topless for a newspaper for £5,400, then worked as a bingo caller, earning enough money to buy a small house, where she continued raising Robin out of the limelight. Her son had no knowledge of his mother's former profession and notoriety until he was 15. Then, in late 1999 and 2000, as Archer was running for Mayor of London, several of his confederates who had testified at the trial for him, began recanting their stories. In September 2000, Archer was charged with perjury, his trial due to open the next May.[2][3]

However, on 26 April 2001, drug addict Gary Day crashed a stolen Jaguar S-Type into Coghlan's Ford Fiesta outside Huddersfield, West Yorkshire. Day, 32, had robbed a pharmacy for drugs, then hijacked two cars using a fake pistol: first a Peugeot taxi, which he crashed into a parked Land Rover, then the Jaguar from a motorist who had stopped at the first crash scene to help. Coghlan's car was catapulted over a wall. She lay in the wreck for an hour, and had to be cut out of the wreckage through the car roof. She died from her injuries the next day in a hospital in Leeds, aged 50. Day admitted manslaughter, and was sentenced to life imprisonment on 6 July 2001.[3][7]

Following her death and Archer's conviction for perjury, on 20 July 2001 the English Collective of Prostitutes wrote an open letter to The Guardian newspaper supporting her vindication, and calling her unjustly "branded by her sex, race and class and by the prostitution laws which label and condemn women." [8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Deaths England and Wales 1984-2006
  2. ^ a b c "Victim: Monica Coghlan", July 20, 2001, The Guardian
  3. ^ a b c d e f "The Press, the Hooker, the Peer and His Fragrant Wife", by Michael Yockel, New York Press, 16 April 2001
  4. ^ Births England and Wales 1984-2006
  5. ^ Raphael, Adam (1989). My Learned Friends: an Insider's View of the Jeffrey Archer Case and Other Notorious Actions. ISBN 978-1-85227-094-0. 
  6. ^ "The fickle finger of fat", By Paul Armstrong, 3 October 2002, Evening Standard, retrieved 2007-07-09.
  7. ^ "Coghlan killer is jailed for life" by Martin Wainwright, 7 July 2001, The Guardian
  8. ^ English Collective of Prostitutes letter, All Women Count Global Women's Strike