By Joseph de Burca
The BBC’s lavish Christine Keeler drama concealed the humiliating truth that Keeler claimed lay at the heart of the Profumo affair: that Sir Roger Hollis, the Director-General of MI5, was a Soviet mole. The BBC also ignored what she wrote about the infidelities of Prince Philip.
The six-part BBC drama, ‘The Trial of Christine Keeler’, has just come to an end. It was meant to be an accurate and comprehenisve portrayal of the notorious Profumo Affair during which a teenager, Christine Keeler, slept with Captain Eugene Ivanov, a Russian naval attaché at the Soviet Embassy in London, while also having a relationship with the much older John Profumo, the high-flying Conservative MP who was Secretary of State for War.
Profumo, who met Keeler in July 1961, dramatically denied a relationship with her in the House of Commons but later admitted he had lied and, in June 1963, resigned in disgrace.
Stephen Ward, the artist and society osteopath who had introduced Keeler to Profumo, was subsequently put on trial for living off the immoral earnings of prostitutes. He took an overdose of medication before the jury returned a verdict against him and died shortly thereafter. He was found guilty on two charges.
A ruthless exploiter of teenage girls: Stephen Ward with Keeler; Ward’s contact with Soviet Intelligence, Captain Eugene Ivanov (right)
The resulting upheaval destabilised the Tory government of Harold Macmillan who was briefly replaced as prime minister by his colleague Alex Douglas-Home before Harold Wilson of the Labour Party seized control of 10 Downing Street.
1. THE BBC IGNORES KEELER’S ACCOUNT
The puzzle that lies at the heart of the BBC’s production is that it ignored the most significant claim Keeler herself made about the affair: in her book, Secrets and Lies, which she published in 2001, she alleged that Ward had played a treacherous and Machiavellian role from the start on behalf of the Soviets alongside a yreacherous Sir Roger Hollis and Sir Anthony Blunt. Hollis served as the Director-General of MI5, 1956 – 1965. Blunt was a KGB mole who had penetrated MI5.
Blunt joined MI5 at the start of WW2 and supplied the Soviets with secrets up to the defeat of the Axis forces in 1945. The perceived wisdom is that he cut all links after he retired from MI5 after the war ended and then went on to become a distinguished art historian and was appointed Surveyor of the Queen’s Pictures at Buckingham Palace. Keeler’s revelations, however, indicate that he was still an active Soviet agent as late as the early 1960s. Blunt eventually confessed his role as a Soviet agent and hence there is no doubt about his treachery.
If D-G Hollis was yet another traitor, it means that he had over a decade to plant and promote fellow conspirators up the ranks and turn a blind eye to Soviet operations directed against Britain and her colonies. (MI5 is responsible for the security of UK and her colonies; MI6 spies on foreign soil.)
The British media has been obsessed with the hunt for the so-called ‘Fifth Man’ inside the Cambridge Spy Ring since the 1950s. D-G Hollis was a serious suspect for the part. The Cambridge Ring consisted of Kim Philby, Guy Burgess, Blunt and Donald Maclean. British commentators now generally agree that a man called John Cairncross was the Fifth Man. Yet, there is no logical reason to suppose there were only five traitors.
Keeler’s revelations about D-G Hollis raises the possibility that MI5 was a nest of traitors. Indeed, D-G Hollis was only one of a line of suspects for the role of the Fifth Man. A slew of books have been published which make out cases against a variety of suspects including the man D-G Hollis appointed as his deputy, Graham Mitchell and Lord Victor Rothschild. The FBI suspected Lord Mountbatten was a traitor too.
The speculation abated after a number of former KGB officers told the British that Cairncross was the Fifth Man. They did so after the fall of the Iron Curtain. Apparently, there were pictures of all five on a wall deep inside the KGB HQ in Moscow. Why should they be believed? No doubt they were paid handsomely for telling the British exactly what they wanted to hear. If they were misleading the British, it means they not only continued to hoodwink MI5 and MI6 but made money in the process while all the time protecting the moles they had planted in Britain.
Keeler made her allegations about D-G Hollis long before the doubts about the man became public knowledge. The speculation reached its high point during the uproar generated by the publication of Peter Wright’s multi million bestseller ‘Spycatcher’ (1987) which the Thatcher government tried so hard – and failed – to suppress. Overall, it emerged that D-G Hollis had been investigated for treachery on four separate occasions. Wright was one of the senior MI5 officers who was involved in these inquiries. Wright also knew a lot about Blunt’s treachery as he spent seven years debriefing him after he confessed his role as a mole.
Yet, the BBC made no mention of either D-G Hollis or Blunt in their drama and portrayed Ward as the innocent victim of a vindictive Establishment determined to slice off a pound of his flesh as an act of retribution for the embarrassment he had occasioned to the Tories. Yet, Ward had made a public statement during which he had wholeheartedly supported Profumo’s denial of having had an affair with Keeler. He only changed tact when the Establishment began to destroy his life. They did this by harassing his clients who abandoned him in droves and thereby destroyed his livelihood. If the Establishment – led by the Tories and the Home Office – believed he was a Soviet agent, their attempt to destroy him makes a lot more sense.
2. LORD DENNING, MASTER OF THE RUSE
The Establishment’s fixer in the affair was a senior judge, Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls. If Keeler’s account is accurate, he betrayed his judicial oath and drew a veil of deceit around the truth.
The Fixer arrives: Lord Denning who was asked to conduct an inquiry into the Profumo affair.
Denning produced a report in September 1963 which focused on the titivating and bizarre sexual shenanigans of the Establishment and was critical of Keeler’s reliability as a witness. Much of the information he amassed was suppressed and omitted from his report. It will not be declassified until 2046, or possibly later. At least the files may still be in existence. Denning had expressed his wish that they be destroyed.
In Secrets and Lies, Keeler drew back what she portrayed as Denning’s curtain of deceit. She revealed that Ward was a Soviet agent who procured young women – many mere teenagers – and made them available to his Establishment friends so as to ingratiate himself with them and secure opportunities to spy on them. He was also, she claimed, a sexual blackmailer.
One of Ward’s victims, Mandy Rice-Davies, was only 16 when he lured her into his web of vice. She was still 16 when she fell into the clutches of the notorious slum landlord Peter Rachman. He exploited her sexually aged 16 – just as Ward had. Rachman kept her attention by dazzling her with presents. For her 17th birthday, he bought her a jaguar car and a forged driver’s licence.
Statutory rape; the slum landlord and child rapist Peter Rachman (right). He exploited Many Rice-Davies (left) while she was a 16 year old as had Stephen Ward.
Keeler says that Captain Ivanov, the Soviet naval attaché, was a member of Ward’s spy ring with the Englishman in the dominant role. There is no doubt Captain Ivanov was a spy working for Soviet military intelligence, the GRU. Ward’s object was to obtain information about NATO, especially the deployment of nuclear weapons in West Germany. There was no hint of this in the recent BBC drama.
3. KEELER’S CASE AGAINST D-G HOLLIS AND BLUNT
In her book Keeler divulged how D-G Hollis was a visitor to Ward’s residence at Wimpole Mews where they discussed obtaining NATO secrets. She described how the mews ‘was where I first made coffee for Sir Roger Hollis, the Director-General of MI5, and Stephen’s fellow spy. For decades, academics and espionage buffs have tried to prove that Hollis was Moscow’s man, though all the official investigations have failed – or were intended to fail – to establish that. I witnessed it myself. I saw Hollis and Stephen Ward talking together at Wimpole Mews five times. I saw Hollis and Anthony Blunt there three times’.
The Soviet Spy Ring which Keeler says sought NATO secrets through various means including the exploitation of teenage girls: Ward, Blunt and D-G Hollis
She was dismissive of any notion that D-G Hollis might have been investigating Ward: ‘Of course not. When you spy on the spies you send James Bond. Not M, the chief Spymaster. Stephen [Ward] relied on Hollis to cover his tracks and at that time they were after important secrets. Espionage was on the front pages: George Blake [the MI6 traitor] had been charged under the Official Secrets Act but no details were given then. It was a spooky time in all meanings of the word. As far as Stephen and Hollis and Blunt and the others were concerned they were working on tilting the world’s balance.’ [Keeler pp. 73-74.]
She says Denning showed her a photograph of D-G Hollis whom she recognised and that she was able to tell him about the visits. ‘After I had seen Denning, Hollis had to face three official inquiries into his running of M.I.5. He retired in 1965 but had to come back from retirement to face a fourth inquiry. He was cleared every time by other spies or those willing to protect the Establishment. Hollis, who died in 1972, should be in the same category as Burgess, Maclean, Philby and Blunt. And Stephen Ward’. [Pages 76-77.]
According to Keeler, ‘He was a cool man, Hollis. I never saw him flustered; I suppose he had that trained temperament to survive as a double agent. Stephen, on the other hand, did creak under the pressure and would lose it and start shouting at me for no reason, or screaming at some news item on the television or radio’. [p. 77]
D-G Hollis and Blunt maintained contact with Ward by masquerading as ‘patients’ who would ‘come round to Wimpole Mews straight from the consulting rooms. It was on those occasions that I made coffee for them. They were concerned about being connected to the Russian Embassy by [Oleg] Penkovsky [a Soviet intelligence defector to the USA] but could only sit the situation out. Because of the lack of information being passed between London and Washington, no one really knew who was working for whom’. [p. 77]
Ward kept Blunt away from Captain Ivanov. ‘Stephen didn’t trust Eugene’s behaviour anywhere and he never allowed him to mix with Anthony Blunt. Those two were chalk and cheese, peasant and patrician, so Stephen made sure they were never there at the same time. The traitors would come during the day, hiding in plain sight. Eugene [Ivanov] would come in the evening and on ‘clear’ days. On the rare occasions when Eugene came to the flat, he normally had a cup of coffee while waiting for Stephen to get ready – Stephen was usually late.’ [ p. 79]
Keeler (left), Mr and Mrs Profumo (centre), newspaper report on Profumo’s resignation
4. SIR ANTHONY BLUNT, THE TRAITOR AND PAEDOPHILE WHO BLACKMAILED THE ESTABLISHMENT
Blunt was detected as a Soviet agent in 1963, the Fourth Man in the Cambridge Spy Ring which also included Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and Kim Philby. Blunt finally acknowledged his treachery in April 1964. Incredibly, he was able to secure a sweetheart deal whereby he was granted immunity for all his crimes and retained his position at Buckingham Palace in return for allegedly helping MI5 unmask other traitors. It has always been suspected that Blunt was able to blackmail the Establishment, especially the Royal Family, to secure such favourable terms.
Queen Elizabeth II and Sir Anthony Blunt
5. PRINCE PHILIP’S DIRTY SECRETS
If Keeler’s account is true, Blunt may also have had access to the compromat Ward had amassed about Establishment figures, not to mention what he already knew about the Royal Family.
Keeler claimed that Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, was unfaithful to the Queen. ‘But I learned, first hand, from another of the Duke of Edinburgh’s lovers about another child. I was with her when she was pregnant.’ [See page 41.]
Ward also told her how he, Prince Philip and David, the Marquess of Milford Haven, a cousin of Prince Philip, ‘had all visited nightclubs together in the 1940s. They were quite wild times and it was all thought to be a little delicate for Prince Philip when Elizabeth became Queen, according to Stephen. He had no time for Philip and would always put him down in conversation for he hated the Establishment. He thought the House of Lords was full of idiots: “Through inheritance alone these people have been set up in the House of Lords to make judgements on our account, let me tell you.” He would get more and more heated and red in the face: “It’s like a thoroughbred animal; they marry their cousins and land up retarded and deformed with the interbreeding”. [p. 35.]
Ward was the son of a vicar who was married to an Irish woman from County Carlow. The Irish connection may account for some of his disdain of the British aristocracy.
A collection of Ward’s portraits of members of the Royal Family including the Prince were purchased from an exhibition at the time of the scandal. It has been alleged that Blunt made the purchase but this may not be accurate. However, it is inconceivable he did not know about the exhibition and the potential embarrassment it posed to the Royals.
A Royal embarrassment: Prince Philip sat for a portrait by Stephen Ward.
Village has described how Blunt was also part of the Anglo-Irish Vice Ring which abused children on both sides of the Irish Sea. He almost certainly told MI5 about an upper class Unionist paedophile ring which preyed on boys in care at Kincora Boys’ Home, Portora Royal College, Williamson House, Shore House, Burnside, Westwins and elsewhere. Lord Mountbatten was an active member of this ring and abused boys as young as eight. If anyone knew about Mountbatten’s predilections, it was Blunt. (See the Anthony Blunt, Louis Mountbatten, Kincora and Peter Wright tabs at the end of this story for further details).
6. DENNING’S SLEIGHT OF HAND
Keeler was questioned by the police as the scandal rumbled on. ‘In time, I told what I knew to the police and others: of Hollis and Blunt, of the intrigue, the sexual blackmail, the insidious movement in and around so-called high society of the underbelly of corruption and the greed and disdain for ordinary people. In time, all the press wanted me to talk about was a British government minister and a Moscow spy. And they were anxious, I can tell you, to know all about that. However, that was not the information the people in charge wanted to be circulated. They wanted it to be all about sex.’
It was against this background that the Denning inquiry was eventually set up. ‘I told Denning … I had been entrapped in Stephen’s spy ring and had witnessed his meetings with double agents and Soviet spies. I told him I had taken sensitive material to the Russian Embassy. He ignored my evidence that Stephen Ward was a Russian spy and that one of the top men in British intelligence was a Moscow man. I was a young girl when I met Stephen Ward and not much more than a teenager when I was interviewed by Lord Denning. Like Stephen, he seemed a father figure.’ [p. 209.]
According to Keeler, Denning already knew ‘that Stephen was a spy and that I knew too much. During my two sessions with him I told him all about Hollis and Blunt: how Stephen had politely introduced me and how I had said ‘hello’ and nodded when they visited. … He asked me very precisely who had met Eugene [Ivanov] and about the visitors to Wimpole Mews. He showed me a photograph of Hollis – it wasn’t a sharp shot of him – and asked me to identify him. I told Denning this was the man who had visited Stephen. … He did not show me a picture of Blunt for, I suspect, they already knew more than they wanted to know about Blunt. Denning was very gentle about it and I told him everything. This was the nice gentleman who was going to look after me. But I was ignored, side-lined – disparaged as a liar so that he could claim that there had been no security risk. It was the ultimate whitewash’. [p. 209]
Her belief is that Denning was, ‘Fearful about what secrets Stephen had sent to Moscow Centre, [and he] used dates and places to cover up all that happened and denied all the evidence he had from me and others.’ [p. 209]
The combination of his whitewash report and salacious articles in the press ensured the public was indeed distracted by sensational stories about call girls, high-class orgies, a mysterious pervert in a mask who liked to be beaten, and hints about the sexual indiscretions of Prince Philip.
That’s all folks: if Keeler is correct, Lord Denning was a corrupt judge who betrayed his oath to do the bidding of his political masters.
Denning may indeed have covered up the existence of the Soviet spy ring because Britain was fearful of suffering the humiliation of another espionage scandal in the wake of a string of such debacles and fearful of being cold shouldered by the CIA.
7. THE CHARACTER OF THE MAN: LORD DENNING WAS ANTI-IRISH, A RACIST AND AN ANTI-SEMITE
The presence of Blunt in the sordid mix may have been a factor in Denning’s sleight of hand. Denning’s report was published in September 1963 after Blunt’s treachery had been established but before he appears to have concluded his immunity deal. He confessed his treachery in 1964 after protracted negotiations.
D-G Hollis was a supporter of the immunity deal.
If Denning had outlined the sweep of the allegations Keeler had relayed to him, it might have displaced the delicate noose the Establishment was pulling around Blunt’s neck. Independently, the revelations about D-G Hollis would have demolished the intelligence arrangement the British shared with the FBI and CIA in a flash.
That Denning was prepared to act as the fixer for the Establishment will come as no surprise to those who are familiar with the remarks he made about the Birmingham Six and Guilford Four.
He was an advocate of the death sentence and told one journalist that donning his black cap to pass a death sentence had never troubled him and that: “We shouldn’t have all these campaigns to get the Birmingham Six released. If they’d been hanged. They’d have been forgotten and the whole community would have been satisfied.”
He alleged that the Guilford Four were “probably guilty”.
In 1980 he sided with the West Midlands police in a civil action taken by the Birmingham Six over injuries they had suffered while in police custody. He held that to rule that the detectives had been lying would open an ‘appalling vista’. Eleven years later he had to admit he was wrong.
A solution to the problem: the Establishment destroyed the suspected traitor in its midst by putting him on trial albeit not for treachery. Keeler was also tried. In her case, for perjury.
Denning was also a racist. Referring to a trial that arose out of the Bristol race riots in 1982, he claimed the defendants had exploited their peremptory challenges to jurors to pack the jury with “as many coloured people as possible”. He was forced to resign after this. He was also an anti-Semite once referring to the European Commissioner and former Tory Cabinet minister Sir Leon Brittan, as a “German Jew”.
8. WARD’S PERPLEXING DEALINGS WITH MI5
Ironically, Ward offered to spy on Captain Ivanov for MI5, presumably to shield himself from suspicion, perhaps with the connivance of D-G Hollis. His offers were apparently spurned. However, there are also accounts that he co-operated with them for a while in an attempt to lure Captain Ivanov into a honey trap but the scheme was abandoned. A third version of events is that he acted as part of a back channel between London and Moscow with the knowledge of MI5. In the final analysis, MI5’s true role in this part of the Profumo affair is still as clear as mud.
Rendezvous in Red Square: Keeler reunited with Ivanov in Red Square, Moscow in 1993, an encounter arranged by the Daily Express.
9. QUESTIONS OVER KEELER’S CREDIBILITY
It is important to note that Keeler pleaded guilty to charges of perjury against her, albeit she lied to protect two guests at her apartment who had defended her from an attack perpetrated by a vicious rapist called Lucky Gordon. The guests were afraid they would get into trouble with the police if they were found on a premises where there had been a fight. Regardless of these mitigating factors, the fact remains: Keeler committed perjury. On its own, this raises serious questions about her credibility. Nonetheless, it is a mystery why the BBC made a six-hour drama based on Keeler’s story which utterly ignored her account of Ward and his Soviet spy ring. Instead, the BBC focused on the injustice meted out to Ward who was prosecuted for living off the immoral earnings of Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies.
There is one simple way to resolve much of the mystery that surrounds the Soviet spy ring dimension to the Profumo affair: declassify Denning’s files. Clearly, Keeler could not have known that D-G Hollis was even suspected as a Soviet spy until the 1970s when this allegation emerged into the public domain except from her observation of him at Ward’s residence. If Denning’s records are declassified and her accusations against D-G Hollis appears in them, it will serve as a near complete vindication for Keeler.
10. UNPLANNED SOVIET REGIME CHANGE IN THE UK
The British Labour Party – still in opposition – ate the Tories alive over the Profumo scandal. According to Keeler, the Establishment ‘wanted to brand Stephen as a perverted character who had lived off immoral earnings, a pimp. They needed Stephen as a scapegoat for their ineptitude and their guilt, a fall guy to divert attention from the government which was being hounded by Harold Wilson’s revived Labour Party. Wilson the dynamic new Labour Leader, could scent a political kill. The atmosphere was of bloodlust. As a principal in the hunt the hypocritical hounds were after me too.’ [p. 149-150.]
Ironically, if Ward was indeed a Soviet agent it means that the turmoil he unleashed destabilised Macmillan and Douglas-Home and ushered the Labour Party back into office after thirteen years in opposition at the next election. Wilson had visited the Soviet Union on a number of occasions and was not as gung-ho about NATO or deploying nuclear arms as the Tories had been. Moreover, he would refuse to send British troops to support the US Army in its fight against the communist insurrection in Vietnam.
Red menace: the Socialists take over at 10 Downing Street. The chaos Ward unleashed undermined the Tories and helped sweep Harold Wilson of the British Labour Party into power. Peter Wright and other MI5 agents believed Wilson was a Soviet mole. Their belief was preposterous but it led them to plot against Wilson in the 1960s and 1970s. Wilson is seen here in January 1968 with Soviet Prime Minister, Alexei Kosygin inspecting troops during a visit to Moscow.
The fall of the Tories was hardly planned by Moscow; clearly more the result of chaos and cock up than conspiracy. Nonetheless, Moscow must have relished the collapse of the Tories on account of the intrigues of their comrade in London, Stephen Ward. At the very least, it was compensation for the dismantling of his UK spy network, Blunt’s exposure as traitor and the noose that was tightening around the neck of D-G Hollis. Captain Ivanov had been recalled to Russia before the scandal erupted.
Ward’s treachery would also provide a rational explanation for the determined and malicious manner in which the Establishment set out to destroy him and thereby his access to people who might have had secrets to disclose. He became a social leper shunned by all and sundry after he was portrayed as a pimp who procured teenage girls for his debauched circle of friends. Blunt was a beaten docket by this stage and in no position to help him while D-G Hollis – if indeed he was a traitor – was not able to save either of his comrades.
Keeler was punished severely too. She was charged with committing perjury. She pleaded guilty and received a nine-month sentence of which she served four and a half in prison.
Ward died in 1963: Hollis in 1973; Blunt in 1983; Ivanov in 1994; Denning in 1999; Profumo in 2006; Rice-Davies in 2014; Keeler in 2017.
Profumo, Keeler and Rice-Davies in later life