MI5 kept secret documents recording details of gay sex parties attended by Tory peer Lord Boothby and notorious East End gangster Ronnie Kray, it has emerged.
Documents unsealed this month show that both the secret service and Scotland Yard were deeply concerned about the actions of the late Conservative peer in the 1960s.
The documents reveal that agents were worried that Lord Boothby might cause embarrassment to the government due to his alleged “taste for young men” and friendship with East End gangster Ronnie Kray.
In 1964, the Sunday Mirror claimed Kray and Boothby were having an affair – but after Boothby denied the story, the newspaper paid Boothby £40,000 in an out-of-court settlement.
One MI5 agent wrote of the pair in the same year: “Boothby is a kinky fellow and likes to meet odd people, and Ronnie obviously wants to meet people of good social standing, he having the odd background he’s got; and, of course, both are queers.”
“According to Holt there is no improper association between the two, nor is it likely that there would be, as both are ‘hunters’ of young men.”
Homosexuality was still illegal at the time, and would not be decriminalised until 1967. Gay ‘sex parties’ continued to be technically illegal until 2003.
Documents also show that Home Secretary Henry Brooke warned that if details were to emerge of Lord Boothby’s private life, it could be a crisis “along the lines” of the Profumo affair – the scandal widely seen to have helped topple the Conservative government of Harold Macmillan.
According to the Telegraph, the agency also interviewed former prisoner who claimed Boothby had visited a “homosexual brothel” on “more than one occasions looking for ‘chickens’… understood to be homosexual parlance for young boys”.