I know on this website some of my spelling can be “experimental” or to put it another way, wrong, and sometimes I write sentences that don't flow very well when you read them.
So thank you dear reader for your patience... and notice I didn't dare mention the grammar on this page,, I still cant understand why Oxford felt they needed their own comma!
Hopefully what you are hearing is my voice, its a little bit dyslexic its a little bit malapropic, but its my voice. I recently wrote a piece that proved far too long, I tried to rewrite it and managed to make it even longer, I think this highlights how complicated this story is.
Obviously the piece was heavily edited, but I thought, here would be an ideal home for my overly long edition.
In July it will be 60 years since the beginning of that chapter in our nation’s history known as the ‘Profumo scandal.’ An affair, in which my mother, Christine Keeler, had a starring role, and is credited with the fall of Harold Macmillan’s government.
The story of that affair is well known: Christine Keeler met John Profumo, the Secretary of State for war, at a summer pool party at Cliveden. She found herself the focus of the world’s press two years later when her relationship with the Tory MP became public knowledge. At the same time, there had also been a drunken night with a Soviet attaché called Yevgeny Ivanov. The scandal was a cocktail prompting feverish claims of espionage and sex parties amongst society’s elite.
What is less well known, however, is the consequences for my mother after being frontpage news around the world. Her name and reputation were tainted, which ensured she was the innocent victim of a subsequent, miscarriage of justice. In December 1963, six months after Profumo’s resignation, she was sentenced to nine months in jail for lying under oath about an entirely different case.
By April 1963. Christine had been tormented by a jazz singer Aloysius ‘Lucky’ Gordon, for 18 months. He had abused, assaulted and, according to Christine, even raped her on two occasions. He was now calling and threatening her – in today’s language, he was stalking her.
On the morning of 18 April 1963, as she was leaving her friend Paula’s house in Westminster for an evening of dancing, Christine was attacked by Gordon. In full view of Paula and two of her friends, he hit and kicked my mother. Paula called the police and Gordon fled. The two men who had witnessed the attack, Rudolph Fenton and Clarence Camacchio, wanted nothing to do with it. Both were West Indian and afraid of the police. They also were married and had criminal records, so they hid in a bedroom when the police arrived. Christine was pressured to say they weren’t there.
When the assault went to court, my mother denied under oath that the two men were witnesses to the attack. Gordon even admitted that he had hit her and was quickly found guilty. His criminal record for violence against women was disclosed and he was sentenced to three years in prison.
Then a few weeks later, a tape emerged of Christine admitting there were two more witnesses at the assault. They were found and interviewed and, even though they confirmed the assault, Gordon’s conviction was overturned in record time. My mother was arrested.
My mother’s barrister, the celebrated Jeremy Hutchinson QC, said of talking with her: ‘It was the voice of a person who had lived many years longer than her twenty-one years and who seemed to have grown entirely weary of life. It was a voice which had lost any joy in life.’
In court there was no disputing that she had been assaulted by Gordon, The police gave evidence of the terror Christine was subjected to by Gordon. All witnesses gave evidence that Gordon assaulted her – even the prosecution accepted that she had been attacked.
What this demonstrates is that, in 1963, it was more important to punish Christine for lying about who witnessed her assault then punishing the man who assaulted her.
In Parliament they were calling her a slut and a prostitute, and in the newspapers it was now the men selling stories for money that destroyed her reputation, It was the end of a hellish year; Christine had been in four very public court cases in 1963: Johnny Edgecombe, Lucky Gordon, Stephen Ward and now her own and she just couldn’t fight anymore. After seeing what had happened to Stephen Ward at his trial, she knew that the system was against her, as what chance did she have? Therefore, on the second day of the trial she pleaded guilty to perjury and obstructing justice and was sentenced to nine months in prison.
As I was growing up, Christine say to me “I should never have gone to prison, Seymour” but the story was complicated and she found it very difficult to explain.
So it wasn't until December 2019, shortly before the BBC was set to release a six-part drama about my mother, that the show’s executive producer, Kate Trigg, phoned me. She said the drama would tell Christine’s story up to her going to prison. It occurred to me that nobody had really done that before and I remembered my mother’s sense of injustice at what had happened to her
In the last line of her will, she wrote: ‘It is my wish that [Seymour] will look after my rights and reputation and do what he can to make sure that the truth is told about events of which I took part during my life.’ I think this is what she meant so I started to piece together what actually happened through books, court documents and newspaper clippings. I didn’t need to rely on just my mother’s account, as everything I needed was was there; in 1963, Christine Keeler couldn’t move without there being a record.
I had the help of Desmond Banks, her long-time friend and solicitor, and together we worked on a timeline of the tragic events, and built a website to tell her story. Then in August last year, I was contacted by a lawyer, James Harbridge, who wanted to help. He had looked at the website and he thought I was right – this was a miscarriage of justice.
Since then he has worked pro bono on the case and now, with the help of a Felicity Gerry QC, we have drawn up our petition for mercy for Christine.
The artist Caroline Coon, a friend of Christine’s, said ‘The most beautiful woman I had ever seen; she took your breath away. Every man who met her wanted her and those who couldn’t have her wanted to punish her.’
All the men around her, honourable or not, didn’t care about the danger she faced from Gordon and she had asked them all for help.
In last year’s BBC drama, people watched a woman being accosted and assaulted by a man he who then assaulted her in the street, they watched as he was released and she was sent to prison.
Her story is another terrible example that the system that does not protect women from violence, and sadly this is still true today. There is a myth that woman lie about being assaulted and in the year to March 2020, just 1.4% of rape cases recorded by police resulted in a suspect being charged: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-48095118
There is a awkward truth: sometimes victims lie, but it’s true that they can be intimidated, coerced or afraid. Sometimes they lie to protect somebody or just to spare their last shred of their dignity. The victim may not even think it is a lie – my mother didn’t. Sometimes the victim can only see the one truth - that they were assaulted and nothing else mattered. Being raped or even a punch in the face it is all very personal.
My mother was coerced in to a lie on oath about there being two witnesses to her assault, but there was no malice in her lie. Christine’s two witnesses would later corroborate her story, that she was assaulted, so denying they were there would not have changed the outcome of the trial, was not material and therefore was not perjury.
The criminal justice system failed my mother in 1963 and it is still failing women today.
I hope that 2021 is the year we see this miscarriage of justice reversed and her reputation restored.