Upon hearing the sad news of Christine Keeler’s passing, here is the epilogue to my novel, Wicked Baby, in which I reimagined the years following the Profumo Affair, in her voice. The photo above, shared by her son on social media, shows Christine enjoying freedom after leaving prison in 1964.
It was a warm, cloudy morning in July. On a folding bed in Mr Lyons’ rented office, part of an old warehouse in Bow, I lay awake as hours ticked by. Newspaper clippings surrounded me, gathering dust. At ten to seven he let himself in.
‘Brace yourself for some terrible news, my dear.’ He placed a mug of coffee by the bed. I turned on my side and tied back my hair with a stray rubber band. ‘It’s Stephen … he’s dying.’
‘What happened?’ Our eyes met over the Telegraph.
‘He took an overdose last night. He’s in hospital now, but nothing can be done for him.’
I felt as if I’d been punched; my stomach churned, and I was suddenly out of breath.
‘Can you please open the window?’ I gasped. Mr Lyons did so and went into the kitchenette, cut bread and put it under the grill. I lifted the mug to my lips and threw the coffee down.
I stood up and tied my dressing gown. I went to the window and picked up the jar of Nembutal that I’d left on the sill. I looked out of the window; cars and people crawled like ants, thirty feet below.
I brushed my teeth at the sink, and spread marmalade on two wedges of toast. Later that day, Stephen was found guilty of living off the immoral earnings of Mandy and I. It took him three more days to die.
The walls of my new house in Linhope Street, Marylebone, were bare. Paula and I sat on the mattress, the only piece of furniture I had, drinking white wine out of paper cups. I bought the house with the £13,000 I had finally earned from the Express.
I sold my story again to the Sunday Herald, hoping that this version would be closer to the truth. I earned a further £7,000, and bought a bungalow for mum and my stepdad in Wokingham, near Wraysbury.
Within days of moving in, I was arrested. The police had found the tapes I’d made with Robin Drury for the book I wanted to write. They heard me talking about Lucky Gordon and how I’d agreed to keep Fenton and Commachio, the two witnesses to his attack on me, out of the court case. And Paula’s brother, John, had confessed as well. So I was charged with committing perjury at Lucky’s trial, and had to take out a loan to cover my legal fees.
‘The prosecution want to make a deal,’ Mr Lyons told me. ‘If you admit perjury, the other charge —wrongfully accusing Lucky of assault — will be dropped, and you’ll get a shorter sentence.’
I pleaded guilty, and was jailed for nine months, while Lucky walked free.
I waited for my father in the visitors’ room at Holloway Prison. I’d said goodbye to him when I was four years old, waving from our air raid shelter. I knew very little about him, though I often wondered what kind of man he might be.
He contacted Mr Lyons during my perjury trial, and we hit it off instantly; he sat in the police box, close to me, smiling and making me brave.
A few husbands and boyfriends came in; children and grandparents followed, and dad was at the back. ‘Christine!’ he said, grasping my hands tightly. His fingers were long and slim.
‘How are you bearing up, girl?’
‘I’m coping, dad — keeping my head down.’ Prison life was hard, but I found the routine almost reassuring. My cellmate, Libby, was a good sort.
‘How’s your mum?’ he asked.
‘Missing me, I think.’ I hadn’t told her about dad yet. I knew she hated him for leaving us when he did.
‘Be good to her, Christine. I’m sorry things didn’t work out for us three.’ His eyes brimmed with tears whenever he talked about the life he’d led without mum and me; his long nose, his full mouth were the double of mine.
I also wondered how different my life might have been if he’d stayed. I might never have run away to London.
‘You haven’t changed a bit, you know. You’ve still got that gap between your two front teeth — ’
I shook my head and he stopped mid-sentence.
‘Please don’t say that, dad. Everything’s changed, you know that.’
He touched my forehead. ‘You’re a good, honest kid, Chrissie.’
I smiled weakly. The warden called time and we said our goodbyes. I went back to my cell and smoked the cigarettes he’d brought along.
A postcard came from Mandy. She was in Holland, singing and dancing in a club. She never did have much of a voice, but maybe all those music lessons Peter paid for had been worth it after all.
I had dozens of letters from men I’d never met, some threatening or obscene. One was a marriage proposal. While reading, I began to wonder what life would be like for me when I got out.
London was changing, quicker than I could keep up with it, when I was released from Holloway Prison after serving six months. Harold Macmillan had resigned, and a new Labour government was in power under Harold Wilson. I returned to my empty house, inviting dad, who was out of work, to stay.
All-night clubs were opening all over London, now owned by the Kray Twins whom I’d known since I was with Peter. They were now more famous than me; we met at one of their clubs in Mayfair, and were photographed together.
At the time of Jack’s resignation I believed my modelling career was over. But there was work to be had, if I was prepared to trade on my name.
Mr Lyons sold the rights to my story all over Europe. The profits went directly to Millwarren, his company. He gave me money to buy things but kept the larger share. I had no control over what was written about me, so I agreed to whatever he suggested, and tried not to care.
Dad got a job at one of Billy Butlin’s holiday camps in Clacton, Essex. I told mum about him and invited her down. She wouldn’t set foot in my house until I asked him to go. I never saw him again.
As I furnished my new house, I remembered how exciting it had been to come to live in London when I was just a teenager, and how my life had changed after I met Stephen.
The house on Linhope Street was big and lonely; I found it hard to settle there. I sold it after two years and went to stay with my mother in Wokingham. It was quiet and after being talked about for so long, I wanted a bit of peace.
I often drove out to Wraysbury, to see my old schoolfriend Jackie White. She had broken up with a man and persuaded me to meet him.
He was Jim Levermore, a civil engineer, six feet tall with green eyes and curly brown hair. Unlike the men I’d known in London, he didn’t talk much.
‘It doesn’t matter to you — who I am?’ I asked him over a glass of sherry one night, at the Golden Fleece. ‘All the stories in the papers?’
He just laughed, and kissed me. Eventually he said, ‘Will you marry me?’
I thought he’d never ask. It was a long shot but of course I said yes.
It happened very quickly. I bought a bungalow a few streets away from my mother. I had my hair cut into a jaw-length bob with a long fringe. We were married at the district registrar’s in Reading, by special license and without publicity.
Shortly after the wedding, Jim went to work in Germany. I stayed at home. I was pregnant; our son was born in 1966. His name was James, like the one I lost, but mum called him Jimmy.
At night, after I’d put the baby to bed, I’d soak for an hour in a deep, hot bath, reading paperbacks and listening to the radio. I got out after the Nine O’Clock News and wandered into my bedroom, wrapped in a towel. The window was open and the curtains blew, revealing a man outside, staring at me.
I walked back to the hall and dialled the police. They came with tracker dogs but the man had gone. Days later I came back from the grocer’s with Jimmy to find the bathroom window smashed and the back door hanging open. Nothing was taken but my wardrobe had been ransacked, and underwear was scattered across the bedroom floor.
Mr Lyons came as soon as he heard, bringing a dog for me. ‘You’re going to need some protection, my dear. Now, I must show you this before you hear it from someone else.’
He took a well-thumbed magazine from his briefcase and turned to the middle page. The blurb was in German, but I recognised the man in the picture; it was my husband, Jim, in the arms of another woman, beside a smaller photograph of me.
‘You’ve got yourself in a mess again,’ said Mr Lyons, passing me a handkerchief to sob on. ‘There’s still the sum of your debts to repay: you can’t hide from the world forever, not when there are so many exciting opportunities for a girl like you.’
I went back to London, renting a flat in Weymouth Street. Jimmy stayed in Wokingham with mum at first, until I got myself settled. I was divorcing Jim on the grounds of desertion, and the legal fees were more than I could afford — so I quickly accepted an offer to pose topless for a new fashion magazine.
Driving up to London, with Jimmy in the back of my Austin Martin and the dog with me in front, I watched the countryside flash by. The hill where I grew up and the forest behind it were just specks in the distance, the caravan I’d lived in probably a heap of wrecked metal by then. I didn’t slow down until we reached London.
How trapped I’d felt in Wraysbury, and how easily I’d escaped; but there was no turning back this time, however much I wanted to. I’d lost the only place I ever called a home, and there was nowhere left to run to but the city.