Keith Wagstaffe was an MI5 officer who worked for DI(a) Operations, a section of the Counter-Intelligence branch, and was based in Room 393 at the War Office. On 8th June, 1961, Wagstaffe, using the name Woods, invited Stephen Ward for lunch in Marylebone High Street. After the first meeting Ward described Wagstaffe as "charming, well-dressed, obviously an army officer in plain clothes."
Wagstaffe told Ward "his people" had noticed his friendship with Eugene Ivanov. He asked Ward what sort of questions the Soviet attache had been asking. Ward recalled: "I put his mind at rest at once. Ivanov had never sought any guarded information." Wagstaffe suggested that "if anything should happen that you feel we should know about, I want you to contact me immediately."
In his report sent to MI5 headquarters, Wagstaffe argued: "Ward, who has an attractive personality and who talks well, was completely open about his association with Ivanov ... Ward asked whether it was all right for him to continue to see Ivanov. I replied there was no reason why he should not. He then said that, if there was any way in which he could help, he would be very ready to do so. I thanked him for his offer and asked him to get in touch with me should Ivanov at any time in the future make any propositions to him.... Ward was completely open about his association with Ivanov... I do not think that he (Ward) is of security interest."
After having lunch with Wagstaffe, Ward introduced him to Christine Keeler: "He (Ward) introduced me to a young girl, whose name I did not catch, who was obviously sharing the house with him. She was heavily painted and considerably overdressed, and I wonder whether this is corroborating evidence that he has been involved in the call-girl racket." According to Anthony Summers and Stephen Dorril, the authors of Honeytrap (1987): "Stephen Ward and M15 officer Keith Wagstaffe had not parted immediately after their first meeting, the lunch in early June 1961. Instead, the doctor led the M15 man, with his pinstripes, bowler hat and briefcase, back to Wimpole Mews.... Subsequently, Wagstaffe has vouchsafed that he thought that the young woman, who served tea, was the loveliest girl he had ever seen. The girl was Christine Keeler, who recalls chuckling about Wagstaffe with Ward once he had departed. If M15 was hoping to set a Honeytrap for Ivanov, Keeler evidently filled the bill as the honey." Keeler later admitted the meeting took place and described him as a small man "he couldn't have been more than four foot eleven."
On 8th July 1961 Eugene Ivanov was at the party where Christine Keeler met John Profumo, the Minister of War, at Cliveden. Profumo kept in contact with Keeler and they eventually began an affair. According to Keeler, Stephen Ward, acting for Ivanov, wanted her to get information from Profumo: "Their (Ward and Hollis) plan was simple. I was to find out, through pillow talk, from Jack Profumo when nuclear warheads were being moved to Germany." Keeler later claimed that she slept with Ivanov on 8th July 1961. "We drank and talked more about his country. He bragged about the size of Russia, how much had been achieved by the Party, how loyal its people were. We drank glasses of vodka and he got annoyed because I kept putting tonic in mine. Then he started kissing me. He wasn't very enthusiastic at first but it was clear what he wanted to do and he got carried away. I could feel him get more excited. He thrust me to the floor. He took his time. He wanted good, old-fashioned sex without any fuss or trimmings. He was a Soviet warrior. He did what Stephen had ordered him to do. And he was pretty good at it. I had just had sex with a Soviet spy, a man from Moscow."
Keeler first told Ward about her sexual relationship with Ivanov on 10th July 1961. Ward, who knew that Keeler was also sleeping with John Profumo, replied: "My goodness! What with Eugene on one hand and your new friend (Profumo) on the other, we could start a war." Ward now called Keith Wagstaffe and they arranged a meeting two days later. Ward wrote in his unpublished memoir: "When I realised what was happening, I contacted Mr Woods (Wagstaffe) of MI5... I also mentioned to Woods at this time that she was in some relationship with Ivanov. I used these words... Please do not make an official report on this matter. I have no wish to damage Mr Profumo, but you will see that I am in a very invidious position here." Ward later wrote: "I felt that I must inform the Security people of the friendship which had developed... I sought to be as practical as possible as I broached the delicate subject... I had got it off my chest." Ward told his friend, Warwick Charlton: "I reported the matter to Mr Woods of MI5. He told me he would deal with the matter."
The authors of Honeytrap (1987) claims that the Denning Report confirms this meeting: "According to the Denning Report, Ward told Wagstaffe that Profumo, Ivanov, and Keeler had all been present at the Cliveden house party. He noted that Ivanov was attracted to Keeler, and that the couple had drunk two bottles of spirits between them at Ward's flat on the Sunday evening. Ward said Profumo was a fairly close friend, and sometimes visited Wimpole Mews. He did not, on this occasion, say Keeler was having an affair with the Minister - for the excellent reason that it had not started yet." Wagstaffe's main concern was as reported by Denning: "Ivanov had asked him to find out when the Americans were going to arm West Germany with atomic weapons." By reporting it, Ward was doing exactly what MI5 man Wagstaffe had asked him to do, to get in touch "should Ivanov make any propositions".
The barrister John Zieger, who was an associate of both Ward and Keeler, had his doubts about the story: "Christine Keeler was open about her sex life and if she had slept with Ivanov she would have said so at the time. In fact, she said she had not slept with him. Two or three weekends later she was gossiping about it. She said Ivanov had been drunk and she was amused by his wavering along the line of being a Russian married man and amorous at the same time. And she said he went off. It was only 18 months later when people were pursuing her and she had a story to sell, and it was only a good story if Ivanov and Profumo were sharing a mistress, that Christine decided she had slept with Ivanov. I don't believe she ever did."
Stephen Ward also had doubts about about whether Christine Keeler was really sleeping with Eugene Ivanov: "She said she would like to have intercourse with him. I have always believed myself she never did. I think, like a lot of people, she tells a story often enough, and comes to believe it and does tell lies." If Keeler did tell lies, she repeated this particular lie in her autobiography, The Truth at Last (2001): "He wanted good, old-fashioned sex without any fuss or trimmings. He was a Soviet warrior... And he was pretty good at it."
On 27th March, 1963, Henry Brooke summoned Roger Hollis, the head of MI5, and Joseph Simpson, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to a meeting in his office. Philip Knightley pointed out in An Affair of State (1987): "All these people are now dead and the only account of what took place is a semi-official one leaked in 1982 by MI5. According to this account, when Brooke tackled Hollis on the rumour that MI5 had been sending anonymous letters to Mrs Profumo, Hollis vigorously denied it."
Hollis then told Brooke that John Profumo had been having a sexual relationship with Keeler. At the same time Keeler was believed to be having an affair with Eugene Ivanov, a Soviet spy. According to Keeler, Stephen Ward had asked her "to find out, through pillow talk, from Jack Profumo when nuclear warheads were being moved to Germany." Hollis added that "in any court case that might be brought against Ward over the accusation all the witnesses would be completely unreliable" and therefore he rejected the idea of using the Official Secrets Act against Ward. Brooke then asked the Police Commissioner's view on this. Simpson agreed with Hollis about the unreliable witnesses but added that it might be possible to get a conviction against Ward with a charge of living off immoral earnings. However, he added, that given the evidence available, a conviction was unlikely. Despite this response, Brooke urged Simpson to carry out a full investigation into Ward's activities.
Stephen Ward was eventually charged with living on the immoral earnings of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies. Ward employed James Burge to represent him in court. Ward told Burge about his relationship with "Mr Woods" at MI5. Ward's solicitor, Jack Wheatley, attempted to locate Woods, but the War Office denied that anyone of that name worked for it. Wagstaffe said he was willing to testify in court but MI5 was unwilling to let him do it.
A senior MI5 officer told Philip Knightley: "I think that everyone involved did feel very sorry about Ward and the final outcome... Nowhere in the Denning report does it say that Ward was acting under our instructions. That is very unfortunate." Knightly asked the officer why MI5 had not found some way to have confirmed that Ward was working for the service? "Yes, Ward might have been alive today if that had happened. But we didn't expect the final outcome and we were very cut up when we learned he was dead."
Stephen Ward was very upset by the judge's summing-up that included the following: "If Stephen Ward was telling the truth in the witness box, there are in this city many witnesses of high estate and low who could have come and testified in support of his evidence." Several people present in the court claimed that Judge Archie Pellow Marshall was clearly biased against Ward. France Soir reported: "However impartial he tried to appear, Judge Marshall was betrayed by his voice."
After the day's court proceedings, Ward contacted Tom Critchley, a Home Office official working with Lord Denning on the official investigation. Later, Critchley refused to comment what was said in that telephone conversation. That night Ward met the journalist Tom Mangold: "Stephen was very relaxed... He wasn't walking around in a froth. He was very calm and collected, just writing his letters and putting them in envelopes. I wanted to pretend that I hadn't seen what I'd seen. My excuse, which was not a good excuse, was that I was on a yellow card from my wife. I reckoned I could risk being home two hours late. But I knew the marriage wouldn't survive if I showed up any later. So all I did was to bleat at Stephen not to do anything foolish."
After Mangold left Ward wrote to his friend, Noel Howard-Jones: "It is really more than I can stand - the horror, day after day at the court and in the streets. It is not only fear, it is a wish not to let them get me. I would rather get myself. I do hope I have not let people down too much. I tried to do my stuff but after Marshall's summing-up, I've given up all hope." Ward then took an overdose of sleeping tablets. He was in a coma when the jury reached their verdict of guilty of the charge of living on the immoral earnings of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies on Wednesday 31st July. Three days later, Ward died in St Stephen's Hospital.
Many years later a senior MI5 officer told Philip Knightley: "I think that everyone involved did feel very sorry about Ward and the final outcome... Nowhere in the Denning report does it say that Ward was acting under our instructions. That is very unfortunate." Knightly asked the officer why MI5 had not found some way to have confirmed that Ward was working for the service? "Yes, Ward might have been alive today if that had happened. But we didn't expect the final outcome and we were very cut up when we learned he was dead."
Ward, who has an attractive personality and who talks well, was completely open about his association with Ivanov ... Ward asked whether it was all right for him to continue to see Ivanov. I replied there was no reason why he should not. He then said that, if there was any way in which he could help, he would be very ready to do so. I thanked him for his offer and asked him to get in touch with me should Ivanov at any time in the future make any propositions to him.
Stephen Ward and M15 officer Keith Wagstaffe had not parted immediately after their first meeting, the lunch in early June 1961. Instead, the doctor led the M15 man, with his pinstripes, bowler hat and briefcase, back to Wimpole Mews. There, according to Wagstaffe's report as published by Denning, "he introduced me to a young girl, whose name I did not catch, who was obviously sharing the house with him. She was heavily painted and considerably overdressed, and I wonder whether this is corroborating evidence that he has been involved in the call-girl racket."
Subsequently, Wagstaffe has vouchsafed that he thought that the young woman, who served tea, was the loveliest girl he had ever seen. The girl was Christine Keeler, who recalls chuckling about Wagstaffe with Ward once he had departed. If M15 was hoping to set a Honeytrap for Ivanov, Keeler evidently filled the bill as the honey.
Exactly a month later, two bees would be buzzing about the honey. One would be Ivanov. The other, and the most persistent, would be the British Minister for War. That, most surely, was not part of the MIS operational plan...
British Intelligence, according to the Telegraph article, "had a record" of Profumo's meetings with Christine Keeler. In his memoir, written months before publication of the Denning Report, Stephen Ward said that Profumo visited Keeler at his flat five times, while he was away at the Cliveden cottage. "Christine has told me of those visits," Ward said. "Intercourse took place on each occasion - Christine has told me intimate details that leave no doubt in my mind that this is so."
No one interested M15 more in its overall surveillance role than Ivanov. The "watchers" on assignment for "D-Branch" had not failed to notice Ivanov's life-style, his heavy drinking, his socialising with Westerners, his party-going, his night-clubbing and his obvious enjoyment of London. If Ivanov was as important an officer in the GRU as Penkovsky made out, then he would be a major catch if he could be persuaded - or blackmailed - into defecting. New information makes it clear that there was a meeting of senior M15 and SIS officers on 6 or 7 June and the decision was taken to target Ivanov for a "honey-trap". He would be subtly "encouraged" to continue his high life. At the right moment he would be forcibly reminded what he would be giving up if he returned to the Soviet Union. If this failed to persuade him to stay, then by this time M15 might have sufficient material on Ivanov to blackmail him into defecting anyway. What was needed as a first step was a trustworthy person close to Ivanov who could help MI5's scheme. There was one obvious choice: Stephen Ward.
MI5 already knew quite a lot about Ward, having checked him out when their surveillance of Ivanov revealed Ward as one of his frequent contacts. It is inconceivable that MI5 did not also take the opportunity to carry out two specific checks on Ward. M15 officers knew that one of Ward's friends was Bill Astor. Astor, as we have seen, had worked in naval intelligence during the war and still kept in close touch with his wartime colleagues - some of whom were now serving in M15. As well, Sir Colin Coote, the editor of the Daily Telegraph who had introduced Ward to Ivanov, had served as an agent controller for SIS in Italy in the 1920s and it is possible that Coote himself may have early on drawn MI5's attention to the opportunities the Ward-Ivanov friendship presented. Either way, with two "friends" of M15 and SIS well placed to advise on Ward's suitability for recruitment for the Ivanov mission it would have been highly remiss of M15 not to have consulted them. Subsequent events suggest that it did.
A D-Branch officer got in touch with Ward and proposed lunch. Ward recalled the first contact as being by letter from Room 393 at the War Office, but a telephone call would have been more likely - a letter would give Ward evidence that he had been approached and M15 might later want to deny this. The officer used a cover name - "Woods" - and said, rather vaguely, that he was attached to the War Office. The two men lunched on 8 June 1961 and later went back to Ward's place for tea.
What was agreed at this extended meeting is crucial to what followed and, as is frequently the case in the murky world of espionage, all the accounts conflict. Ward said in his tape recording that Woods revealed that he was an M15 officer, that the service had noticed Ward's association with Ivanov and thought that they should have a chat about it. Ward asked Woods whether the service had any objection and Woods replied, "No. On the contrary. I think that it might be a good thing. But if anything happens that you feel we should know about, I want you to contact me immediately."
On 6 June 1961, Stephen brought Wagstaffe round after they had been out to dinner and I made them coffee. There was no mention of me making coffee for Hollis, his boss. Stephen was on the couch and Wagstaffe sat in the sofa chair. He wanted to know about Stephen's friendship with Eugene. We knew that M15 were monitoring embassy personnel so this was quite a normal interview in the circumstances and Stephen later tried to make light of it but it worried him.
The "cloak-and-dagger man", as Stephen called him, asked Stephen a lot of questions about his relationship with Eugene. He didn't object to my being there at all. Apparently the Security Service suspected Eugene was not the simple Naval Attache he made himself out to be. Stephen casually answered all the questions: "We play a lot of bridge at my club, the Connaught. Occasionally we have a meal together, and we meet for coffee up the road."
"He's never asked you to put him in touch with anyone you know? Or for information of any kind?"
"No, he hasn't. But if he did, naturally I would get in touch with you straight away. If there's anything I can do I'd be only too pleased to."
"Carry on the relationship as you have been, as though nothing has happened."
"Well, I'll let you know as soon as Eugene gets suspicious," Stephen promised, as Wagstaffe left. "You wouldn't believe, little baby, that he was a cloak-and-dagger man, would you?" Stephen laughed.
"How about the bowler?" I giggled.
"And the little briefcase, and rolled umbrella?"
"Not to mention the glasses, National Health, I bet. And he couldn't have been more than four foot eleven."
The Ward jury was left with the impression that Ward's account of having worked for M15 was one of his fantasies. If he had indeed been helping M15 set a trap for Ivanov and had told his case officer, Mr Woods, about the Keeler-Profumo affair, then this would have greatly improved his standing in the eyes of the jury, and would have made it impossible later for Denning to accuse him of being a crypto-communist. But instead the jury was left wondering why, if Ward's account of his M15 service was true, the defence had not called Mr Woods as a witness to confirm it.
Ward's solicitor, Jack Wheatley, had indeed made attempts to locate Woods, but, of course, Woods was a cover name, and the War Office simply denied that anyone of that name worked for it.
Then in 1982, Nigel West, in his history of MI5, A Matter of Trust, revealed the "honey-trap" operation and Ward's role in it. West wrote of MI5's embarrassment at Ward's evidence of his contacts with the service and how relieved M15 was that efforts to trace Mr Woods had failed.
The Sunday Times now managed to find Mr Woods, who had since retired. His real name is Keith Wagstaffe. He confirmed to them, and later to us, Ward's story in detail, and told how MI5 had recruited Ward as an agent and how Ward had done his best to help the service in its entrapment operation. "I felt rather sorry for the poor chap at the end of the day," he said. Another, more senior M15 officer involved in the operation said it was a pity that Ward's true role had not been revealed at the time of his trial. "I think that everyone involved did feel very sorry about Ward and the final outcome," he said. "Nowhere in the Denning report does it say that Ward was acting under our instructions. That is very unfortunate." The officer said Ward would have been encouraged to see himself as a patriot working for his country. M15 had no idea that the operation would end in the manner it did "and we were going to burn our fingers in this way". But could not MI5 have found some way to have confirmed that Ward was working for the service? "Yes," the officer admitted. "Ward might have been alive today if that had happened. But we didn't expect the final outcome and we were very cut up when we learned he was dead."