Wednesday 21 September 2016

Chapter 21 - Never knowingly undersold

The catalyst for the ensuing Profumo scandal was a former Labour MP by the name of John Lewis.

According to the authors of the book Honeytrap:

Three years after the war, Lewis married a beautiful model called Joy Fletcher. It was a disaster, not least because of Lewis’ philandering and his alleged interest in bizarre sex.

Furthermore, in another book, An Affair of State we are told that:

His wife confided to women friends that Lewis’s sex education seemed to have come from prostitutes and that he expected her to perform services like washing his genitals after intercourse. Their sexual relationship declined to the point where Joy Lewis had consulted the family doctor, David Minton, about her repugnance for her husband.”

Now John Lewis, who was never knowingly undersold, had held a long-term grudge against Stephen Ward after he had introduced Lewis’s wife to a well-known philanderer named Frederic Mullally and a lesbian Swedish beauty queen in 1953. Lewis swore to extract his revenge upon Stephen Ward no matter how long it took.

It would take nine years until, on the eve of Christmas 1962, Lewis would finally get his opportunity. This was the day he met Christine Keeler at a party for ‘old friends from the Cabaret Club’, and she told him about the problems she was having with two of her former lovers, Lucky Gordon and Johnny Edgecombe. Remember them? Ten days earlier on December 14th, Edgecombe had taken a taxi to the flat of Stephen Ward, where Keeler was in hiding. When she refused to come out, he fired several shots at the door. It was his subsequent arrest that would set in motion the unravelling of Keeler’s relationships with Profumo and Ivanov.

Keeler was accompanied on this pre-Christmas soiree by the racing-driver cum journalist Paul Mann. Mann was reportedly an old friend of Ward’s (it has been claimed that Paul Mann was with Ward and Keeler at Cliveden the night Chrissie first caught Profumo’s roving eye and wandering hands) but it seems a little convenient that it should be him that introduces Chrissie to John Lewis. It was Mann who would later spirit Chrissie out of the country, to Spain; when she had been due to testify against Johnny Edgecombe at his trial for shooting at Ward’s apartment.

Edgecombe had been charged with attempted murder even though the only known victim was a somewhat splintered front-door. Despite Chrissie being the only witness, and her being a no-show, the trial went ahead and, unsurprisingly, the black man was convicted and sentenced to seven years imprisonment.

Perhaps it would be germane of me at this moment to remind you of Edgecombe’s claim that Paul Mann was an MI5 operative!

By this time Chrissie had surrounded herself with individuals who she thought were her friends, such as Paul Mann, and who would protect her. The truth, as ever, was somewhat different. Another of these plastic friends was the ‘freelance journalist’ Nina Gadd who, as Chrissie now suspects, probably sparked the whole Profumo rumour mill into life by supplying Queen Magazine with some juicy tit-bits concerning the Chrissie/Ivavnov/Profumo triumvirate.

Gadd was, in fact, an assistant to the journalist Comer Clarke for whom she would ghost-write material. One such example of Gadd’s contributions included this supposed quote from the ex-Cuban President, Fidel Castro which was apparently obtained during an impromptu 1967 pavement interview:

“Lee Oswald came to the Cuban embassy in Mexico City twice. The first time, I was told, he wanted to work for us. He was asked to explain, but he wouldn’t. He wouldn’t go into details. The second time he said something like: ‘Someone ought to shoot that President Kennedy.’ Then Oswald said - and this was exactly how it was reported to me – ‘Maybe I'll try to do it.’ ...”

Indeed, Comer Clarke may well have been the Sunday Pictorial journalist that Gadd brought along to meet Chrissie at her flat in January 1963 in order that she could sell her story to the tabloids. The origins of the Gadd - Castro story are suspect to say the least, though it does appear to have some provenance. If this story was deliberately concocted to imply a Cuban involvement in JFK’s assassination or if it was simply FBI misinformation is unclear; though it does serve to establish that there was a spy in Chrissie’s flat; and one whose primary concern was to generate headlines rather than to determine and champion the truth.

However, back at the Christmas Eve party Keeler, accompanied by Paul Mann, was happily divulging details of her relationships with both Lucky and Edgecombe, and of her domestic arrangements with Stephen Ward, to the incredulous John Lewis. The grateful Lewis offered Keeler all sorts of access to legal advice, of which she gladly availed herself not realising that Lewis was using her to get to Ward.

Lewis immediately sensed an opportunity to simultaneously screw Ward and get back into the Westminster good-books and so, unsurprisingly, word got back to the Labour MP George Wigg of the whole sordid affair. It appears that Wigg, who kept a blackmail archive on top Tory MP’s, may well have already known about Chrissie, Profumo and Ivanov so this latest Yuletide instalment was the icing on top of the cake.

The original lead arrived when Wigg received a mysterious phone message that told him:

“Forget the Vassall case; you want to look at Profumo.”

This information came from an anonymous tipster, however, it is widely believed that the tell-tale phone-call emanated from the handset of Victor Louis, who has form for these types of nuisance calls, as he was a Russian journalist and intelligence agent, and had been suspected of being responsible for calling the Cambridge Evening News with information about the then impending JFK assassination. Louis was apparently MI5’s candidate for the Wigg tip-off.

What is interesting is that we now have three people: Victor Louis, Nina Gadd and Michael Eddowes; who played some part in both the JFK and Profumo conspiracies.

George Wigg demanded some form of concrete evidence before he was prepared to put his reputation on the line so Lewis went back to Keeler and offered her £30,000 “…if her information brought the government down.”

Wigg, who despite never holding a substantial role in Government would, nevertheless, go on to receive a knighthood in 1967, subsequently asked pertinent questions in Parliament about Profumo which resulted in the then Home Secretary, Henry Brooke, meeting with Metropolitan Police chief Joseph Simpson and the head of MI5 Roger Hollis. This meeting led to Commander Fred C. Pennington being ordered to assemble a team of coppers specifically to investigate Ward.

The team was headed by Chief Inspector Samuel Herbert and included Detective Sergeant’s John Burrows, Arthur Eustace and Mike Glasse. On quite what grounds Herbert was selected to lead this investigation is unclear, however, Pennington, when giving Herbert his brief declared: “we’ve received this tip-off, but there’ll be nothing in it.”
This was not quite how Herbert saw it, though. Pennington had presumably been told by his boss, Joseph Simpson, that this was to be no more than a cursory investigation and this would clearly have suited Roger Hollis, who would have known all about Stephen Ward. 

Herbert’s investigation though wasn’t to be simply about gathering evidence; if need be his team were to create it. General police practice is to discover a crime and then duly investigate it but in this case the officers were to investigate an individual with a view to finding a crime he may have committed. To this end a barmaid at Ward’s local pub was persuaded to set a honeytrap for the honeytrap king and to report back on anything she could find out. Or make up, presumably?

Shortly thereafter both Christine and Mandy Rice-Davies were nicked by Herbert and interviewed repeatedly. They were left under no illusions that if they did not tell the Old Bill exactly what they wanted to hear concerning Ward that they would be going down for a very long time. Indeed, Mandy was banged up in Holloway Prison for nine days where she was visited by Chief Inspector Herbert who told her: “Mandy, you don’t like it in here very much, do you? Then you help us, and we’ll help you.”

Having successfully blackmailed Mandy and Chrissie into testifying against Ward DCI Herbert then interviewed the photographer Vasco Lazzolo; who was one of the small band of Ward’s friends who had agreed to testify in his defence. Herbert told Lazzolo that if this happened he would be discredited. Herbert warned that the police might have to “find” some pornographic material in his studio and prosecute him.

Lazzolo was another Thursday Club member and had produced a portrait bust of its most prominent member, Prince Philip.
Prince Philip’s head on the block: if only!

Next, Herbert went after Ronna Ricardo and she was arrested and persuaded to testify against Ward where she suggested that he had been living off her immoral earnings. Ronna endured nine interviews to ensure that she gave the ‘right’ testimony at the committal hearing. Ultimately, two days before Ward’s trial ended she revoked her previous evidence in a new statement to police and said that what she had told the court previously had been a lie.

Later, Ronna spoke to the author Anthony Summers and told him Herbert had been one of her clients.

Unsurprisingly the weight of all the faked evidence against Ward had the desired effect and he was convicted. According to Sergeant Mike Glasse, all the police officers had been told before Ward’s trial that if the prosecution was successful they would receive promotions, “but not immediately, because it would not look good.” Samuel Herbert was duly promoted to the rank of Superintendent.

Samuel Herbert died of a heart attack on 16th April 1966. In his will he left only £300, however, after his death his bank account was discovered to contain no less than £30,000, which was, not coincidentally, exactly the same amount that John Lewis had offered Chrissie to spill the shit about Ward.

In 1963 £30,000 could buy you an awful lot; indeed, it seems that was the price for bringing down a government.

Would it surprise you to discover that having persecuted Stephen Ward to his grave Samuel Herbert and his sidekick John Burrows then went on to investigate the Stripper murders? No, of course it wouldn’t; just more circles within circles.

Researchers of the Stripper murders have obsessed about the fact that three of the girls were stored, post mortem, in the same electrical sub-station on the Heron Trading Estate in Acton and assumed that the paint flecks found upon their bodies were significant clues that could lead to their murderer. They weren’t. The paint flecks had simply been carried in the wind from a car-paint spraying business nearby to the electrical sub-station where the carcasses had been stored. What was significant was the fact that next to the electrical sub-station was a film-processing company. All the girls had died whilst appearing in snuff-movies.

If they were killed, or if they died at their own hand, I don’t know but someone out there liked his erotic asphyxiation. They died whilst being filmed either being strangled or hung, presumably with their panties or stockings, which would explain the ligature marks and signs of strangulation found on the dead girl’s necks.

Somewhere out there will be a celluloid memorial to these girls and I am determined to find it.

In Hannah Tailford’s case her official cause of death was drowning, not strangulation. Therefore she was alive, but perhaps unconscious, at the time she was dumped in the Thames with her panties in her mouth.

Further detail on Tailford can be found in the book Policing Notting Hill: Fifty Years of Turbulence in which it says:

“However, what the investigation did discover was that she did not just solicit on the streets but also attended parties involving ‘perverted sexual practices’ in houses in Kensington and Mayfair, organised by a foreign diplomat [Andre Padoux] who employed an agent [Stephen Ward] to recruit the women. She had also posed for pornographic photographs involving group sex sessions and was, believed, at one time, to be in possession of those photographs.”

I believe these films were being shot at Dolphin Square and that it was from there that the first two bodies were dumped into the Thames. I also believe that this practice was abandoned because both Tailford and Lockwood’s bodies washed up near the same point at Hammersmith Bridge, potentially leaving a trail back to Dolphin Square.

Thereafter the bodies were left in various, often very obvious and open, places having been previously stored at the Electrical sub-station. Why not leave the corpses there? Why take the risk of transporting the bodies twice? Could it have been that the corpses were left where they were not because they were secluded, secure, remote locations but because whoever deposited them there knew that they were on different police patches?

The advantage of this strategy being that the subsequent murder investigation would, therefore, likely be led by different police officers.

Ultimately there was no serial killer, Jack the Stripper did not exist, which is why there were no signs of a standard modus operandi. Equally it explains why the deaths came to a sudden end. Generally a serial killer, once he has developed a taste for death, will not stop until he is either caught, or, until he is dead.

After Tailford and Lockwood both washed up at virtually the same place the ensuing corpses would be dropped off for safe storage at the Heron Trading Estate at the same time that the 8mm film of their deaths was taken in for developing. Then someone would come along, when the coast was suitably clear, and dispose of the body. Most likely that someone was Chief Inspector Samuel Herbert and, or, his sidekick John Burrows.

Chief Inspector Herbert had taken money from the MP John Lewis to frame Ward at any cost; this involved interviewing a colossal 140 witnesses and harassing some (Ronna Ricardo, Mandy Rice-Davies, Christine Keeler) so that they would testify against him; however, having fabricated evidence to secure Ward’s conviction he knew that Ward had a larger circle of girls and he could not know what they knew. He could not risk word of his criminality being spilled by any of these girls.

Herbert had also been a client of Ronna Ricardo, therefore, it is possible that he had also been a client of some of Ward’s other girls. Chrissie and Mandy became too well known to bump off but what better way to get rid of the others than by earmarking them for their own starring role in a deathly skin flick.

If the former MP John Lewis was the pervert with a taste for watching girls die from asphyxiation on camera can be no more than idle speculation but we do know that he had a taste for ‘bizarre sex’ and that he visited prostitutes. At the very least he should be considered a candidate.

Certainly though someone wanted these movies made and the girls were duly selected. Once dead, and once it was realised that they could not simply be disposed of from Dolphin Square via the Thames, the girls’ bodies, and the accompanying cinematic memorials to their deaths, were taken to the Heron Trading Estate for the film to be developed and for the cops to arrange for the safe disposal of their remains, knowing as they did so well, the varying boundaries of the different London police divisions.

Where these movies went, to whom they were circulated and who else starred in them remain a mystery; a mystery for which I will now postulate a possible answer.

1 comment:

  1. Frederic Mullally ended up writing Wicked Wanda for Penthouse as well as his now forgotten novels.