Byline: Neil Sears, Emily Andrews
IT IS the time of year for bumping into old acquaintances and passing afew minutes wandering down memory lane.
Not that disgraced former Cabinet minister Jonathan Aitken would have wanted todwell too long on the past when he ran into his old cell mate, armed robber andcat burglar Mickey 'Spider' Aguda.
Mr Aitken, 65, still looking every inch the Tory grandee in his smart overcoat,suit and tie, was recently brought back to public life when appointed to athink-tank on prison reform.
It is a subject on which Mr Aguda, 56, might be expected to have strong viewsafter his many years as a hardened criminal, carrying a shotgun and holding upvans for cash.
The pair met after Mr Aitken was jailed for 18 months in 1999 for perjuryduring a libel battle.
The former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, who had declared the 'simple swordof truth' would guarantee him justice when he sued The Guardian, emerged fromprison speaking of his renewed faith in God and determination to do good works.
He also emerged with an unlikely friend in Mr Aguda, who earned the name Spiderthrough his ability to vows to block scale scaffolding and break into hotelrooms. At the time Mr Aguda met the Tory - whom he knows as Johnny - he wasserving four years for money laundering.
They got along so well that observers claimed the armed robber was effectivelyacting as the politician's 'minder' at Standford Hill open prison on the Isleof Sheppey, Kent. Mr Aguda said: 'I'll never forget the day I met him. My cellwas on the second tier, and one of the screws shouted up, "You're getting a newneighbour; Jonathan Aitken".
Then Jonathan came along and he was struggling with his gear. Well, he wasn't anonce or anything, so I gave him a hand and invited him into my cell for a cupof tea. …