As I write this we are coming to the end of February, the days are getting warmer and the first daffodils have come out. Christine’s campaign is now gathering speed, and we are working away on what is a more final draft of her petition for mercy.
I am also working away on a new page on the website that shows the legal timeline, the trials and court cases that surrounded the story that raged through the whole of 1963. It occurs to me that only now do we have the language to understand Christine’s story, and only now is there an appetite to understand it.
I looked up the word Gangster, I wanted to check its meaning and it is simply: a criminal who is in a gang. I think today it has a more nuanced meaning and when people get called a gangster it doesn't always mean that they are a criminal in a gang.
Christine met all sorts of gangsters Bobby McKew, who was a good friend of Stephen Ward was one of them. According to Christine it was Bobby who introduced Stephen to ‘The Indian doctor’ Emil Savundra, another famous crook.
Bobby McKew was himself an interesting man. When he came to London from Ireland he was associated with the infamous Billy Hill gang. Was Bobby always a gangster? I think in later years he called himself a crook not a gangster.
In the 70s and 80s Johnny and Chris would drink in the same watering holes through south west London. Sometimes I would be dragged along and be given a glass of cola and a packet of crisps and left in a seat in the far corner of the pub. The Man in the Moon or The Water Rat on the Kings Road or Finch’s on the Fulham Road.
When Johnny was out, he was the centre of the universe -famously he had a pub party trick to show off the size of his penis, he could balance 5 half pint glasses along its length. He was magnetic and a huge personality, Johnny had a rare charisma that made him immediately likeable. If I caught his eye he would give me a little wink that would make me smile.
Johnny said to me, “Your mum is a great woman, she’s a survivor,” in a proper London accent.
Everybody knew about his affair with Princess Margaret, even I knew and I was a child. People would say he was very decent not to talk about it ... And yet everybody knew.
Christine once said to a friend that she “really respected Princess Margaret being with Johnny.” I overheard and asked her what she meant? She looked awkward and changed the subject.
In 1971 there was a famous robbery at Lloyd’s Bank in Baker Street and safety deposit boxes where emptied;there was film about the robbery starring Jason Statham 2008. It was rumoured that one of the boxes had compromising pictures of Johnny Bindon and Princess Margaret, but I’m not sure that the dates work for that to be the case.
All of Johnny’s charm and charisma did hide one truth, he was capable of immense and lethal violence. He was charged and acquitted of the murder of John Drake, pleading self defence. It was also rumoured he ran protection rackets in the west end. I was a child and didn't see any of that.
Christine never seemed uneasy in his company or any of the men like Johnny.
Christine met The Kray Brothers at the height of their powers in the mid sixties when she was dating their nephew Freddy. She knew who they were and what they were capable of, but she said, “I had no fear of them”.
The Krays tried to give her sage financial advice: “If you have any money Christine, you should invest with us, in property in Spain.” Christine wasn't the invest money type, or having any money to invest type either.
Years later, in the early 1970s she felt she needed protection. She had left my father and wanted a minder, some muscle to frighten him off if he came near her. Johnny Bindon introduced her to a local hard man called Ginger. Christine wasn’t going to be anyone’s property any more.
When we moved to the World’s End Estate, Ginger and his family happened to be neighbours and I was friends with his youngest son. I remember Ginger was always well dressed, suit and tie, then one day my friend’s dad came home, not from the pub, but from hospital, Ginger had had the life kicked out of him by Johnny Bindon.
I was far too young to know the details but my memory of seeing my friend’s father, back from hospital, lying on their couch, was that he was all smashed to pieces, covered in wires that seemed to be holding him together. They said he was lucky to be alive.
Johnny Bindon died of AIDS related syndrome in 1993.
I don’t want to paint the picture that this was Christine’s life, because it wasn’t, these were just some of the colourful people that she met. Christine didn’t have a boyfriend who would wear a sharp suit and could have the life kicked out of him by another angry man. She would have hated that. Christine met all the characters in London because she was Christine Keeler.
The newspapers have said that Jonny Bindon was an ex-boyfriend of hers, but I’m not sure that is true or rather I never heard that until I read it in a newspaper. It seems every man Christine ever met is called an ex-boyfriend.
I never saw Christine afraid of any of these men. She was only afraid of Gordon. These hard men or London gangsters didn’t frighten her at all. Maybe she had already used up all of her fear.