I have always wanted to make a true crime podcast, ever since I listen to Serial back in 2014.
It’s something I dabbled in on the penultimate episode of The Town That Didn’t Stare which did applied a mirroring structure to look at the 1812 murder of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval and the 1996 murder of businessman Richard Watson. And here, again, we have a mirroring: Lewis Carroll, whose potential paedophilia history seems uncertain about, and Geoffrey Prime, a Soviet mole at GCHQ in the 1970s, who was captured as a result of his sexual crimes.
Telling the story of the Prime affair for a new audience — either those who have forgotten what was a very big story in the 1980s, or those who are coming to it fresh — meant trying to go back to the basics. This isn’t something that comes particularly naturally to me, especially with a story as morally complex as Prime’s! I instinctively want to delve into an examination of the ethics of the case, and try and apply some human sympathy to the situation. But the story has to get told, and for that I was lucky for the help of Peter Picken, a police officer who had worked closely on the case. I was also very grateful for the two books written about the case — Geoffrey Prime: The Imperfect Spy by David Cole, and Time of Trial by Rhona Prime — as well as Richard Aldrich’s book on the history of GCHQ.
The Prime affair is seedy. It doesn’t have a glamorous element in the slightest and, as such, it’s been forgotten by history in a way that the stories of men like Kim Philby and Anthony Blunt. He was a paedophile and a loner; he lived in unfashionable Cheltenham, and at the time of his arrest was a cab driver. But his story is certainly one of the most important in British intelligence history, for all its grubbiness.
This is only the first part of the Prime story. The story of his trial, sentencing and life beyond that will be told in a later episode. Please make sure that you’re subscribed to The Town That Knew Too Much in whatever podcast app you use. And do leave a rating and review so that we can reach new audiences…