John Profumo, the Tory minister forced to quit after a notorious 1960s sex scandal, also had a long-running relationship with a glamorous Nazi spy who may have later tried to blackmail him, newly declassified records suggest.
Fashion model Gisela Winegard met Profumo at Oxford in the early 1930s before working for German intelligence in Paris during the Second World War, according to MI5 files published today.
The Security Service papers also include claims made by her American husband Edward Winegard in 1950 that the couple separated in September that year because of her “endearing letters from John Dennis Profumo ... written on House of Commons notepaper”.
At the height of the Profumo Affair in 1963, MI6 sent a letter and files to MI5 investigations head Arthur Martin about Profumo and Winegard, whose maiden name was Klein, outlining her wartime and postwar exploits.
In it, the MI6 officer Cyril Mackay wrote: “Although it is not particularly relevant to the current notorious case, Geoffrey thought you might like to have for your files the attached copy of a report from our representative [redacted], dated 2nd October 1950, which makes mention of an association between Gisela Klein and Profumo which began ca 1933 and had apparently not ceased at the time of this report.”
The 1963 letter goes on to discuss a rejected 1951 application by Mrs Winegard, now reunited with her husband, for a UK visa.
At the time of the application, the later MI6 letter reveals, authorities believed the Winegards had “recently engaged in blackmail activities and now think it possible their intended visit to the UK may be connected with this”.
The papers do not say who the intended target of their blackmail efforts might be.
The visa application, for a six-week “pleasure visit”, listed “Jack Profumo, MP for South Cattering [sic]” as a reference, the files show.
Mr Profumo was MP for Kettering from 1940 to 1945, and for Stratford-upon-Avon from 1950.
The declassified records show that Dusseldorf-born Winegard:
l Had been ordered to leave the UK in 1935 and 1936 for working as a fashion model while on non-working visas.
l Was reported as being “on intimate terms with the German Military Attache in Paris” in 1938, leading the Home Office to recommend she be barred from entering Britain.
l Ran a secret wartime information service for the Nazis in Paris, under the cover of a “commercial information bureau” which also saw her visit Italy and Greece.
l Was the mistress of, and had a child with, a high-ranking German officer.
l Was imprisoned for espionage after the Allies liberated Paris in late 1944. Edward Winegard was her US Army jailer and married her after getting her released. l Come to the attention of the US Secret Service post-war and accused of harbouring the on-the-run chief of a German spy ring while living in the south of France.
l Was sacked by the Voice of America radio station in Tangier in early 1950 when her “pro-German sympathies” and imprisonment were revealed.
Profumo himself told MI5 about Winegard, the archives reveal. A memo reveals in 1941 he admitted meeting her in 1936 “and got to know her well”. The memo goes on: “She was always hard up. Later she went on to become a mannequin (model) and made a large number of useful contacts. Lady Astor is alleged to have expressed the opinion that she was a spy.”
Pre-war reports on Klein’s activities in Britain describe her as being “of striking appearance” and well-connected, using “invitations and help from male friends” to make ends meet.
Profumo became MP for Kettering in 1940, but went on to serve with distinction as a British Army officer in the Second World War, landing in Normandy on D-Day.
He lost his seat in the 1945 Labour landslide, but was elected in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1950. Four years later he married the actress Valerie Hobson.
His political downfall came in 1963 when, while Secretary of State for War, he was implicated in the scandal that came to bear his name.
The lurid disclosures of high-society sex parties and claims he had shared a mistress, Christine Keeler, with a Soviet defence attache enthralled and scandalised the nation.