Spy files reveal gangster and Tory peer 'hunted young men'

Ronnie Kray and Lord Boothby frequented gay parties together in the 1960s, according to MI5 documents

Ronnie Kray and Lord Boothby
(Image credit: Getty)

The infamous East End gangster Ronnie Kray and Conservative peer Robert Boothby struck up an unlikely friendship in the 1960s over their shared taste in young men, spy files have revealed.

Newly declassified intelligence documents have exposed how the mobster and the lord frequented West End night clubs and gambling dens owned by the Kray brothers to "hunt" for young men.

Kray and Boothy met after a cheque stolen from the peer was "passed" through one of the Kray's betting rooms. They soon forged a friendship revolving around London's underground gay scene.

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The pair were being closely watched my MI5 agents after their liaisons prompted fears from the Home Secretary at the time that they could spark a new Profumo scandal, says The Independent.

Following a surveillance operation in 1964, one agent concluded that: "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."

But there was no indication that the men were anything more than friends – despite media reports at the time. "Certainly the suggestion that Boothby has been having an affair with the gangster Kray is hardly true," said the report.

This didn't stop the Sunday Mirror from publishing a front page story in 1964 headlined: "Peer and Gangster: Yard Probe. The paper didn't name him, but ended up paying Booth £40,000 in damages.

"Thereafter the media were scared off pursuing the story by fear of further libel suits," Professor Christopher Andrew, who was MI5's official historian, told the Daily Telegraph.

MI5 believed that the Sunday Mirror story was fed to the newspaper by the Nash family, who were on the Kray brothers' biggest rivals.

"If this had come out in 1964 it would have been a huge scandal," Richard Dunley from the National Archives told the BBC. "As tabloid headlines go, you can imagine what would have happened."

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