February 2014: Now 76, Prime lives in sheltered housing in a suburb of South London. He receives meals on wheels and is cared for by nurses.
Spy Geoffrey Prime released from prison
A KGB spy whose perverted actions in Hereford led to his downfall, is back in the news.
Moscow’s key British agent, Geoffrey Prime, was jailed for 35 years in November 1982 after admitting he had been selling secrets to the Russians for 14 years.
He has been released from jail after serving only half his sentence, a Home Office source has said.
He had also been imprisoned for three years for indecently assaulting three young girls, including a 14-year-old Herefordshire girl – which led to his being unmasked as the ‘spy of the century’.
Prime had phoned the girl, claiming to be a ‘Mr Williams’ and visited her house the next day pretending to be a painter and decorator.
Prime was also a member of the Paedophile Information Exchange and had a card index of 2,287 young girls whom he targeted by phone.
He made indecent suggestions and threatened her with a tin opener. He left the house when she screamed but asked if she knew of any other girls on their own.
Passers-by had noticed an unusually coloured Ford Cortina which police traced to 44-year-old Prime.
The trap tightened when Prime, who worked at the Government listening post, GCHQ in Cheltenham as an advanced linguistic specialist, admitted to his deeply religious second wife Rhona, he was a spy.
He was responsible for passing secrets in Vienna, Berlin, Potsdam, East Germany and London.
At the Old Bailey, Attorney General Sir Michael Havers QC, had said his activities had caused ‘exceptionally grave damage’.
It is believed that Prime, whose name will be placed on the sex offenders’ register, was blackmailed by the Russians who persuaded him to work as a translator at GCHQ.
Last July he was moved from high-security Whitemoor Prison in Cambridgeshire to the low-security Rochester Prison, Kent.
A Home Office spokeswoman has said the Parole Board is satisfied Prime is no longer a threat to children.
Police found a collection of PIE contact magazines in Prime’s garage containing material that called for paedophiles to be given equal rights to homosexuals. They were found among an array of Soviet espionage gadgetry.
Prime, then 44, scoured local newspapers for pictures of girls wearing their school or Brownie uniforms or photographed at an award ceremony for sporting or musical success.
He would then track down his target, get their phone number from directory inquiries and call their family home, pretending to be a workman.
His first victim was just 11 when, in 1980, she received a call from a breathless Prime pretending to be a plumber.
Within five minutes of establishing that the girl was alone, he went to her address, knocked on the door and conned his way in.
Having pulled a hood over his head, Prime threatened his young victim before sexually assaulting her.
The Old Bailey heard how the girl was left ‘crying, shaking and very distressed’.
The following year, Prime stalked a 13-year-old girl with phone calls before visiting her address when her parents were out.
He pretended to be a decorator offering an estimate for painting work. The girl was horrified when he asked to photograph her, telling her that she had ‘grown up’ so much since her parents had employed him as a babysitter.
Angered by her refusal to obey his demands, he tied a handkerchief over his face and grabbed her by the neck as she tried to flee.
He flung her on the bed and threatened to hurt her if she did not co-operate.
Although the terrified girl again tried to flee, he attacked and sexually assaulted her.
A year later, still untraced by police, Prime pestered a 14-year-old girl in a series of calls during which he pretended again to be a decorator wanting access to the property to give a quote for work.
When he called round and finally persuaded her to let him in, he threatened her by flipping open the blade of a bottle opener, then sexually assaulted her.
The girl’s screams eventually forced Prime to flee, but only after he had asked her if she knew of any other girls likely to be on their own in the area.
With a huge police manhunt under way, parents around Hereford were alerted to the attacks and Prime’s distinctive two-tone Ford Cortina was spotted. It wasn’t long before police tracked him down to a cottage he shared with his wife.
Prime, known for his arrogance, denied the allegations.
However, after police left, his devout Christian wife Rhona quizzed him further, and he confessed to his predilection for under-age girls, his links with PIE and his spying activities.
She contacted the police, who then searched his home — finding notepads with secret messages to relay to the KGB, writing paper with invisible ink and cash deposits.
During three days of interviews at Gloucester prison, DCI Picken, of the West Mercia force, secured the dramatic confession that Prime was a Soviet spy.
Prime was charged with spying for Moscow and with three sex offences.
The court heard that he had admitted being attracted to girls aged ten to 15.
PIE — with its affiliation to the NCCL — had waged a long-running campaign for paedophiles to be accepted in society as ‘child lovers’ and to abolish the age of consent.
Prime’s case went to the Old Bailey in November 1982, a time when Patricia Hewitt was still the NCCL’s general secretary and Harriet Harman had only just left the organisation after working for more than three years as its legal officer.
Jack Dromey had sat on the NCCL executive committee for almost a decade from 1970 to 1979.
It was in 1978 (before Prime launched his sex attacks) that Harman wrote a submission to Parliament about the Protection of Children Bill, which sought to ban child pornography.
Harman began by saying that the NCCL ‘deplored the exploitation of children’.
But she argued that the Bill should be watered down, to reduce the sentence for anyone merely in possession of offensive photographs of children.
She also wanted a prosecution to be made more difficult, urging that a picture of a naked child should not be considered indecent unless it could be proven that the subject had suffered.
Sentencing Prime to 38 years in prison, the judge condemned him as a ‘calculating and rationally motivated spy’.
He added: ‘Your ruthlessness is demonstrated not only by what you did with this country’s secrets, but by what you did to those girls.’
Not surprisingly, the Prime case stunned the British public and led to questions in Parliament about whether other PIE members were under police surveillance.
Despite this intense focus on PIE, it continued to be affiliated to the NCCL for some time.
Prime was released early from his sentence, in 2001, and received £80-a-week income support and various other welfare benefits.
Now 76, he lives in sheltered housing in a suburb of South London. He receives meals on wheels and is cared for by nurses.
It is deeply ironic that he takes money and support from the state that he once betrayed so happily to its enemies.
Neighbours told us that a few years ago he often visited a leisure centre to swim and work out. But now he rarely leaves the house.
There is a children’s centre with a playground and small park just yards from the four-storey building where he lives — which acts as a haunting reminder of the time in the Seventies when Harman & Co, like it or not, were legitimising the activities of evil men such as Geoffrey Prime.