I have spent the last week going through the October 1963 press cuttings about Christine Keeler’s preliminary hearing for her trial for perjury, reading the differing stories the men connected to the trial told either the police, the press or the court. In truth I am left feeling a bit unsettled by all the mendacity and malice.
I don't want to upset anyone when I write this blog, but Christine’s life involved rape and sexual violence.
Growing up with Christine Keeler as my mother was mostly normal, getting up in the morning, sitting around watching television in the evening, but sometimes even just sitting around watching television could unlock something important about Chris and the person she was and hold a mirror up to what she went through. One night watching a TV movie in 1986 is still with me today.
It’s a film called Easy Prey and it stared Gerald McRaney who I recognised from detective show I liked called Simon & Simon, he played the part of Christopher Wilder, a serial killer known to have raped 12 women and murdered eight but there were probably many more.
The film focused on one of his victims, Tina Marie Risico, who was 16. Wilder posed as a photographer looking for models and tricked the young Tina into his van, abducting and raping her. Tina’s response to the situation saved her life, she didn’t fight, she remained calm. It was so unlike the other women who had screamed, cried or fought, the women Wilder had gone on to murder. There was something about young Tina and Wilder decided to take her with him, to keep her alive.
Either the film or Christine explained how this young girl had already been a victim of abuse.
The blurb on IMDb says of the story, “A young girl with Stockholm Syndrome becomes a companion of a dangerous man posing as a photographer to pick up his victims”
That wasn't the film we watched, that wasn't the film Christine watched, the film she so passionately identified with.
Wilder goes on to abduct another young girl, Dawnette Wilt. In the film young Tina tries to tell her not to fight, let him do what he wants: “You need to survive”.
I don't remember this being a story of a girl with Stockholm Syndrome, it was the story of a girl who wanted to survive. As the film come to an end, the police are closing in and catch their man, at an airport or train station and Tina survives.
That was when Chris started her lecture. I had heard it before, but this time we had watched a film as an example I could follow.
“Seymour, that girl was clever, she’s alive. Seems, - She used to call me Seems - if some man takes you and throws you into to the back of his car, just survive. If he is going to rape you, let him, don’t get murdered, it’s just sex...’ She laughed as she said it, but it was one of those strange laughs that people use when they are sad or afraid.
“If someone is going to put their dickie in you and you can’t stop them, then survive, you only have one life, and there are people who say ... men who say fight until you are dead, and Seems, that’s bullshit.”
I was a 14 year old boy, becoming a man, and found it difficult to identify with her words.
At the time we were living at the Worlds End Estate and there was a neighbour across the way, he had always made Chris feel a little uneasy. He always appeared at his front door when Christine was coming or going with plenty of small talk: “Morning, nice day, do you think it will rain?” Then one morning when I was at school and Christine was on her own, there was a knock on the door, it was the neighbour, and as Christine opened the door he tried to force his way in.
Chris told me “He was going to rape me and I knew it, but I shouted, OH MY BOYFRIEND!”
“It stopped him just a second, and he looked over my shoulder down the hall, and I pushed him back and slammed the door in his face”
Within a few months he was in prison for another sexual assault, and we would never see him again. It was only then she told me about what had happened.
I asked her if she had called the police. “No, you wouldn’t understand”
As for the film we watched, I’m not sure how close it was to the real story of Christopher Wilder and young Tina Marie Risico, and I haven’t seen that film since I was 14 with Christine and I’m sure I won’t watch it again. I did a little reading on the story and 16 year old Tina gets a bad press about helping Wilder abduct his next victim, but can you imagine what that was like for her, being that young girl afraid for her life who doesn't have the power to change the road she found herself on. Are we still blaming the victim for surviving? Because that wasn’t the film Christine and I watched.
I can’t be sure how many times Christine found herself in the situation where she just needed to survive. I know Lucky Gordon raped her on two occasions and I have a memory from when I was very young of a boyfriend pinning her down beating her while she begged, “Not in front of my son.”
Today I have a daughter, Christine’s granddaughter, what do I tell her?