TOMMY Sheridan visited a swingers' club only five months ago as he prepared to go to court to sue a Sunday tabloid over similar allegations about his private life, a jury heard yesterday.
The Court of Session was also told that the former Scottish Socialist Party leader had an affair with a former prostitute. Jurors heard a claim that the pair sipped champagne and ate strawberries in a 110-a-night room and had sex in the back of a car near Loch Lomond.
Mr Sheridan denies the allegations and is seeking 200,000 from the News of the World, insisting he was defamed in articles in 2004 and 2005. The newspaper maintains the Glasgow MSP visited Cupids, a Manchester swingers' club and that he had a number of affairs.
Allan Caldwell, 51, a freelance investigative journalist, told the court yesterday that he received a phone call from a contact who had visited Cupids on a Friday or Saturday night in 2002.
"He was laughing and he said, 'Guess where I am and guess who is here?' He was in Cupids and had just been speaking to Tommy Sheridan. It is a place where people indulge in free sex, basically," Mr Caldwell said.
The contact, who was described as a single businessman, said he did not think Mr Sheridan had realised that he had recognised him. He said Mr Sheridan told him he had stopped off on his way back from London and that it was one of a number of clubs he used.
Mr Caldwell's contact said he watched Mr Sheridan get into a hot tub with two naked women and then go with them into a room, where a window latch could be opened to allow people to watch what was taking place.
Mr Caldwell said he trusted his source 100 per cent and passed on the information to the News of the World.
Recently, knowing he would be giving evidence in the case, he had phoned the contact to refresh his memory about what had happened.
"He mentioned that in February this year he had been in another club, in Sheffield, the Chambre, which is also a swingers' club, and he and his girlfriend both saw Mr Sheridan," Mr Caldwell said.
He refused to reveal his contact's name to Richard Keen, QC, for Mr Sheridan. The lawyer complained that made it impossible to try to check out the man's story. Mr Keen asked: "Do you think someone in Mr Sheridan's position would go off to a swingers' club on the eve of coming to trial for defamation unless he was a complete idiot?"
Mr Caldwell said: "I would find it very unusual."
Mr Keen suggested it was not just unusual, but also extraordinary. Mr Caldwell replied: "I do not know because I do not indulge in that kind of habit ... I do not know if people are addicted and have to keep going back."
Douglas Wight, 33, a journalist with the News of the World, said in 2004 he was given the name of Fiona McGuire, an SSP activist from Peterhead, and he interviewed her. The jury was told that Mrs McGuire, then a soldier's wife, had worked briefly as a prostitute and had been known as "Christy Babe" at an escort agency in Aberdeen.
Mr Wight read to the court a transcript, which he said came from a tape recording of his interview of Mrs McGuire. He said she had not been interested in receiving money for a story and, initially, had been very reluctant to give information. However, she had explained that she had a relationship with Mr Sheridan, which began before his marriage and continued after it.
They had met at an SSP worker's home in Aberdeen when she was "under the influence of copious amounts of drugs and alcohol".
She had added: "He was charming. You do not think somebody like that will be attracted to somebody like me."
Later, she met Mr Sheridan for dinner in an Aberdeen hotel. She had been shopping earlier and he asked to see the underwear she had bought. They went to a room, which she had booked.
"We ordered strawberries and champagne. He said I had really beautiful eyes and I had a naughtiness. He was a very considerate lover," she said, adding that they had sex four times that night.
They had met on many subsequent occasions and had sex, mainly in hotels but once in a car near Loch Lomond.
Mrs McGuire was quoted as saying: "We were just using each other. It was just a bit of fun. We were very experimental. He liked the feeling of ice a lot. He liked you to dominate him. He liked uniforms. He liked whipping just a little bit, at the top of his legs. From things he said, he was quite broadminded."
Mrs McGuire had also mentioned an occasion when she and Mr Sheridan met another couple in a lap-dancing bar in Newcastle and they all went back to a hotel together. An article appeared in the News of the World in November 2004 under the heading: "My kinky 4-in-a-bed orgy with Tommy".
Mrs McGuire was paid 20,000 by the paper, the jury heard. Mr Wight confronted Mr Sheridan about the allegations concerning Mrs McGuire on the night before they printed their article on 14 November.
Mr Wight said Mr Sheridan told him: "My advice to you is to print. I look forward to you printing and I look forward to suing you."
The trial continues.