This July will mark 60 years since the beginning of the chapter in our nation’s history known as the ‘Profumo scandal.’ It was this unhappy episode in which my mother Christine Sloane, formerly 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: Chris 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 attention two years later when her relationship with the Tory MP became public knowledge. She had also briefly been with a Soviet called Yevgeny Ivanov, prompting feverish claims that she had been passing him British intelligence from Profumo.
What is less well known, however, is the consequences for Chris after being splashed across papers around the world. Her name, deeply tainted, ensured that she was the innocent victim of a subsequent, grave miscarriage of justice. For 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 entanglement.
The incident happened in April 1963. Shortly before she was due to leave her friend Paula’s house in Westminster for an evening of dancing, Chris was attacked by jazz singer Aloysius ‘Lucky’ Gordon. She had known him for 18 months, during which time he had abused, assaulted and, according to Christine, even raped her on two occasions. That evening, in full view of two of Paula’s 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, so ran and hid in a bedroom when the police arrived. As West Indians with criminal records, they were afraid of the police.