Sunday 25 February 2018

'Inconvenienced' model Campbell turns court into media circus

Supermodel Naomi Campbell described her appearance in court as a "big inconvenience".

Even at a late stage, the judges were not convinced she would show up for the hearing in The Hague, Netherlands.

Expressing her impatience after the model failed to arrive when summoned, Justice Julia Sebutinde said: "I certainly hope Miss Campbell is not being conveyed from her hotel. Where is she?"

When she did walk into the courtroom - a former basketball court in a building which was once a Dutch intelligence headquarters - she made quite an impression.

Campbell wore a figure-hugging cream dress with a tight cardigan.

And around her neck was a shiny evil eye, perhaps to ward off bad spirits.

A designated photographer was given one minute to take pictures.

Then, for the court's benefit, Campbell described who she was.

"I'm a model, I'm a self-employed business woman and I do a lot of charity work," she said.

She made it clear she wasn't pleased to be at the court.

"I didn't really want to be here. I was made to be here. Obviously, I want to get this over with and get on with my life.

"This is a big inconvenience for me."

Campbell had done her research, revealing she had become afraid for the safety of her family after reading on the internet that Charles Taylor, former president of Liberia, was responsible for thousands of deaths.

As she gave her evidence she spoke confidently, with a low, sometimes husky voice.

She said in September 1997, after a whirlwind journey through New York, London, and Milan she arrived in South Africa for Nelson Mandela's party.

Campbell's former agent, Carole White, has said the model flirted with Taylor, a warlord, over dinner.

But Campbell told the court her attention was firmly focused on Mandela, who she has described in the past as her adopted grandfather.

But there was some "general conversation" with the former warlord.

"He was explaining about his country being a beautiful country," she said.

"I'd never heard of Liberia before."

In the middle of the night Campbell said she answered her bedroom door to find two men offering her a small pouch.

"I just took them. I get gifts given to me all the time at any hour of the night," she said.

"It's quite normal for me to receive gifts."

She said did not bother to open the cloth until morning, when she found two or three "dirty looking pebbles".

She did not immediately know what they were.

"When I'm used to seeing diamonds, I'm used to seeing diamonds shining in a box," she explained.

"I wouldn't have guessed right away they were diamonds."

It was only when she took them down to breakfast, she said, that it was suggested the stones were in fact diamonds, and they were most probably a gift from Taylor.

"I'd never heard of him before," she said."I'd never heard of Liberia before," she repeated.

Campbell was keen to point out that all this was a long time ago.

"It's 13 years ago," came the refrain, time and time again.

Defence lawyer Courtenay Griffiths QC, started with a conciliatory tone.

"I certainly don't want to inconvenience you more than you've been inconvenienced already," he said.

Campbell smiled, knowingly.

After less than two hours her testimony was over and the great media presence began to disperse.

Mr Griffiths said the appearance was a "complete distraction".

He was not talking about the model's looks, but the failure of the media to cover the trial more widely.

"All of a sudden because a supermodel is turning up we have the world media camped outside this former intelligence headquarters.

"If people really are concerned about international criminal justice, then a trial such as this, the trial of the first African president to be brought before a court of law, should have been followed assiduously from the word go."

More than 200 journalists were accredited to attend, packing the court's public gallery and watching on flat screen televisions in adjoining press rooms.

Outside, on the other side of the road from the court, camera crews lined up along the grass.

One court official summed it up: "It's a bit of a circus here today."

Press Association

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