Michael Eddowes

Michael Eddowes

Michael Eddowes, the son of a lawyer, was born in Derby in 1903. After completing his education he worked for his father before eventually establishing his own law firm in London. In 1956, he sold his law firm and invested Bistro Vino, a chain of restaurants.

In 1955 he publishedThe Man on Your Conscience, an investigation into the murder trial and execution of Timothy Evans. The book caused renewed interest in the case and eventually Evans received a posthumous pardon by the Queen. This case played an important role in the subsequent abolition of capital punishment in Britain.

In the late 1950s Eddowes became a close friend of Stephen Ward, an osteopath working in London. On 28th October, 1962, Ward introduced Eddowes to Christine Keeler. As Keeler later revealed: "I kept my date with Michael Eddowes but he was far too old for me. He was nearly sixty but her certainly was interested and wanted to set me up in a flat in Regent's Park."

During this period Christine Keeler became involved with two black men, Lucky Gordon and John Edgecombe. The two men became jealous of each other and this resulted in Edgecombe slashing Gordon's face with a knife. On 14th December 1962, Edgecombe, fired a gun at Stephen Ward's Wimpole Mews flat, where Keeler had been visiting with Mandy Rice-Davies.

Two days after the shooting Keeler contacted Eddowes for legal advice about the Edgecombe case. During this meeting she told Eddowes: "Stephen (Ward) asked me to ask Jack Profumo what date the Germans were to get the bomb." However, she later claimed that she knew Ward was joking when he said this. Eddowes then asked Ward about this matter. Keeler later recalled: "Stephen fed him the line he had prepared with Roger Hollis for such an eventuality: it was Eugene (Ivanov) who had asked me to find out about the bomb."

Eddowes then went to see Stephen Ward about what Christine Keeler had told him. Ward insisted it was Eugene Ivanov who had asked Keeler to find out information about the delivery of nuclear warheads to Germany from John Profumo. On 29th March, 1963, Michael Eddowes called Scotland Yard with this information.

On 21st March, George Wigg asked the Home Secretary in a debate on the John Vassall affair in the House of Commons, to deny rumours relating to Christine Keeler and the John Edgecombe case. Richard Crossman then commented that Paris Match magazine intended to publish a full account of Keeler's relationship with John Profumo, the Minister of War, in the government. Barbara Castle also asked questions if Keeler's disappearance had anything to do with Profumo.

The following day Profumo made a statement attacking the Labour Party MPs for making allegations about him under the protection of Parliamentary privilege, and after admitting that he knew Keeler he stated: "I have no connection with her disappearance. I have no idea where she is." He added that there was "no impropriety in their relationship" and that he would not hesitate to issue writs if anything to the contrary was written in the newspapers.

As a result of this statement the newspapers decided not to print anything about John Profumo and Christine Keeler for fear of being sued for libel. However, George Wigg refused to let the matter drop and on 25th May, 1963, once again raised the issue of Keeler, saying this was not an attack on Profumo's private life but a matter of national security.

On 5th June, John Profumo resigned as War Minister. His statement said that he had lied to the House of Commons about his relationship with Christine Keeler. The next day the Daily Mirror said: "What the hell is going on in this country? All power corrupts and the Tories have been in power for nearly twelve years."

Eddowes continued to run the Bistro Vino chain of restaurants. He also took an interest in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. In his book, Khrushchev Killed Kennedy(1975), Eddowes argued that Kennedy was killed by a Soviet agent impersonating Lee Harvey Oswald. Eddowes also claimed that Lyndon B. Johnson was aware of this and had covered-up the role of the KGB in the killing of Kennedy in order to prevent a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. It was later revealed that the book had been financed by the Texas oil billionaire, Haroldson L. Hunt.

The following year Eddowes published November 22: How They Killed Kennedy (published in the United States as The Oswald File. In the book Eddowes claimed the assassination was an act of political sabotage and that this information had been withheld from the authors of the Warren Commission.

To test his theory, Eddowes brought a suit in Texas to exhume Oswald's body. This was originally refused but after gaining the support of Lee Harvey Oswald's family, the exhumation took place on 4th October, 1981.

The exhumation of Lee Harvey Oswald's body on 4th October, 1981
The exhumation of Lee Harvey Oswald's body on 4th October, 1981

The body was taken to the Baylor Medical Center. Identification was made primarily using dental records. At a news conference held later the following statement was issued: “The findings of the team are as follows: We independently and as a team have concluded beyond any doubt, and I mean beyond any doubt, that the individual buried under the name of Lee Harvey Oswald in Rose Hill Cemetery is in fact Lee Harvey Oswald.”

Eddowes also issued a statement: “Though surprised, I am in no way disappointed in the apparent disproving of my evidence of imposture. Rather, I have accomplished my objective in obtaining the exhumation and I am glad for those who have steadfastly maintained the contrary for whatever reason.”

Michael Eddowes died of a burst aneurysm, in Oakland Court, a retirement home, in Felpham, in 1992.

Primary Sources

(1) The Denning Report (1963)

After they got back to the flat Christine Keeler telephoned Mr. Michael Eddowes. (He was a retired solicitor who was a friend and patient of Stephen Ward and had seen a good deal of him at this time. He had befriended Christine Keeler and had taken her to see her mother once or twice.) Mr. Eddowes went round to see her. She told him of the shooting. He already knew from Stephen Ward something of her relations with Captain Ivanov and Mr. Profumo, and he asked her about them. He was most interested and subsequently noted it down in writing, and in March he reported it to the police. He followed it up by employing an ex-member of the Metropolitan Police to act as detective on his behalf to gather information.

(2) Philip Knightley, An Affair of State (1987)

Christine knew nothing of "cheque book journalism", but she had friends who did: Paul Mann, the racing driver/journalist and Nina Gadd, a freelance writer. Together they convinced her that, if she listened to them, she could make a small fortune. They reminded her that she was constantly broke and that Lucky Gordon was still making her life miserable. They told her they had been in touch with certain newspapers in Fleet Street which were prepared to offer her a great deal of money. This was true. Several newspapers were interested in Christine Keeler, especially when her appearance at the committal hearings of the Edgecombe shooting case at Marlborough Street Court reminded editors of the rumour floating around Fleet Street about her: that she was having an affair with Profumo.

There were problems, of course. The first was the English contempt law. No newspapers could publish anything about Christine's relationship with Edgecombe until his trial was over because the details of it were central to the charge. Next, there were the libel laws. If Christine's memoirs named other lovers, unless there was solid proof that what she said was true, they might sue for defamation. On the other hand most of the news at that time was bad, and a light sexy story of an English suburban girl who could arouse such passions - "I love the girl," Edgecombe had said, "I was sick in the stomach over her" - would certainly appeal to the readers of the Sunday sensational press.

Nina Gadd knew a reporter on the Sunday Pictorial, so on 22 January, with Mandy along to steady her resolve, Christine walked into the newspaper office carrying Profumo's farewell letter in her handbag. The newspaper's executives heard her out, looked at the letter, photographed it and offered her £1,000 for the right to publish it. Christine said she would think it over. She left the offices of the Sunday Pictorial and went straight to those of the News of the World, off Fleet Street. There she saw the paper's crime reporter, Peter Earle. Earle was desperate to have the story - for reasons that will emerge - but Christine made the mistake of telling him that his offer would have to be better than £1,000 because she had been offered that by another newspaper. Earle, who had had long experience of cheque book journalism, told Christine bluntly that she could go to the devil; he was not joining any auction.

So Christine went back to the Sunday Pictorial, accepted its offer and was paid £200 in advance. Over the next two days she told her entire life story to two Sunday Pictorial reporters. They soon saw that the nub of any newspaper article was her relationship with Profumo and Ivanov. It is easy to imagine how the story emerged. Christine was being paid £1,000 for her memoirs. The second slice, £800, was due only on publication. If the story did not reach the newspaper's expectations, Christine would not get it. She was anxious therefore to please the Sunday Pictorial reporters and dredged her memory for items that interested them. The trend of their questions would soon have indicated what items these were.

What started out then as an article about Christine's double life - with Ward's rich friends in high places and her own West Indian friends in low - soon changed tack. Christine knew a Russian diplomat; had she slept with him? Had she been sleeping with him at the same time as she was sleeping with Profumo? Was the hint given in the Queen article true - that one left the flat as the other arrived? Gradually the story built up. But it was still only a young girl of loose morals sharing her favours with a British Cabinet Minister and a Soviet diplomat, and one of the leading characters, the diplomat, had already gone back to Moscow. It was not much use naming him as the guilty man. And there remained great legal doubt whether it would be safe to name Profumo, either. The paper could make out a case that the triangle posed a security threat, that Profumo had left himself open to blackmail. But readers are not gripped by stories full of "ifs".

Then Christine gave the story that extra lift that it needed. Remembering the interest shown by the solicitor Michael Eddowes and by John Lewis when she had said that she had been asked to find out from Profumo when West Germany would get atomic warheads, Christine now told the Sunday Pictorial this ludicrous tale. Christine's first version - the one told to Eddowes - was that Ivanov had asked her to get this information. Her second version was that it had been Ward, but that he was joking. Now, perhaps realising that since Ivanov was gone he was of lesser interest to the paper, Christine insisted that it was Ward who had put the idea to her - and that he had been serious. In the paper's most unChristine-like words: "I did find it worrying when someone asked me to try to get from Profumo the answer to a certain question. That question was: "When, if ever, are the Americans going to give nuclear weapons to Germany?" I am not prepared to say in public who asked me to find out the answer to that question. I am prepared to give it to the security officials. In fact I believe now that I have a duty to do so." Christine clearly tailored this story to suit her audience. (For what it is worth, twenty years later she had reverted to its being a Ward joke and claimed that when she had first told it to the Sunday Pictorial reporters, they had also understood it to be his idea of a joke.)

(3) Christine Keeler, The Truth at Last (2001)

I found myself desperate for a shoulder to lean on. I needed advice, guidance. I needed someone to turn to. Stephen did not want to know. The press were pestering Mandy and me all the time but she knew nothing and thought it was all a giggle, a bit of fun. Her ignorance did not help my feelings.

The fears to me were immediate ones and surrounded the trial of Johnnie Edgecombe which was set to be heard a couple of weeks into the New Year. The prospect of the trial at the Central Criminal Court, the Old Bailey, dominated all my thinking. Everyone else seemed to be preparing for Christmas and the lights were on in the West End. I had a stack of invites to parties and to drinks get-togethers but I was thinking about being asked in court if I had had sex with a black man, which in the early 1960s was a great stigma. It was like being an unmarried mother, a dreadful thing. But as the sixties got older and celebrities began having babies out of marriage that became more and more acceptable. Just as inter-racial relationships have become commonplace. Then, you didn't stir the melting pot for fear of the prejudice disguised behind net curtains.

I thought Michael Eddowes might help me. He clearly found me attractive and had been keen to get me into bed. All I wanted was his advice for he had a distinguished legal background. Money was short and forty-eight hours after the shooting on 14 December 1962, I picked up the phone to Eddowes hoping for free advice down the line. Instead, he wanted to visit me in Great Cumberland Place. He was terribly self-important, a florid-faced man who talked loudly and did not expect interruptions. He was used to speaking in court. He did not paint a positive picture. Johnnie would say anything to escape a long sentence. He would say he was protecting me when he knifed Lucky Gordon and the gun he used in the shooting was mine. Why had I got a gun? Was it all my fault? Eddowes made it very clear that the story could be made to suit whoever was telling it. I told him Stephen was terrified of being mixed up in it. I did not tell him it was because Stephen was a Soviet spy.

One important element of the story that was relentlessly spun in the years that followed was that I blurted out to Eddowes all about my affair with Jack. I didn't. I simply said, "Stephen asked me to ask Jack Profumo what date the Germans were to get the bomb."

Eddowes, who was a conspiracy freak and later investigated the shooting of President Kennedy, was bright-eyed when I told him this. He clearly saw all sorts of implications. He had seen a lot of Stephen and must have had an idea about Jack and even Eugene. But not from me. What information he had came from Stephen and was part of the scheme orchestrated by him with Roger Hollis.

Eddowes had the scent: he asked me about Lucky and about the All Nighters and then kept coming back to espionage, matters of state. He had an evangelical look about him, a singled-minded determination. He seemed to lose track of what concerned me most - the Johnnie Edgecombe trial. I was terrified of mentioning anything about Hollis or Blunt. The way Eddowes looked and talked I could see myself spending the rest of my life in the Tower of London. I had visions of Traitors' Gate. Eddowes seemed to take over the small living-room with his bulk and questions.

I was happy to tell him what seemed to keep him happy and that was being asked by Stephen to ask Jack about the bomb. I said nothing about my own activities, of dropping off papers. He kept threatening me with fire and brimstone but I never confessed to any involvement with Jack or Eugene. Eddowes was like so many of the men at the time: he was putting down others for what he talked of moral misdeeds but wanted to have me himself. He didn't like Stephen because he thought Stephen stood between him and my bed.

(4) Michael Eddowes, November 22: How They Killed Kennedy (1976)

All those with whom I have discussed the facts of the assassination, although agreeing with my conclusions, have asked me what the Russians had stood to gain, and it has been necessary, therefore, to endeavour to identify not only the decisions and the words of the Kennedy brothers, but to try to identify the ultimate purpose of the foiled Cuban and Indian adventures in order to indicate a possible motive for the subsequent assassination of the President. If, as the evidence indicates, the KGB organised the assassination, it would seem that it had appeared imperative to remove Kennedy from the area of international relations, for he had captured the ear of the world and had obtained the support of the United Nations over the Cuba Crisis.