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ARGYLL HAD TWO LOVERS IN HEADLESS PICTURES; REVEALED: Churchill's son-in-law was mired in 60s society sex scandal.

A FORMER Tory minister has been implicated in the Duchess of Argyll's "headless man" sex scandal of the 1960s.

An inquiry has confirmed screen idol Douglas Fairbanks Jnr was the man seen with the duchess in an infamous series of four, sexually-explicit photographs.

But another Polaroid picture showed the duchess performing a similar sex act on a different man - and that man is now thought to have been the former Secretary of State for Defence, Duncan Sandys.

Just before her death in 1993, the duchess was asked by a close confidant about the identity of the second man and her reply seemed to leave little room for doubt.

She said: "Of course, sweetie, the only Polaroid camera in the country at the time had been lent to the Ministry of Defence."

It is nearly four decades since the Duke of Argyll divorced his wife, Margaret, in a case which scandalised British society.

Fairbanks was among a list of 88 men, including Government figures, film stars and members of the Royal Family, that the Duke of Argyll had suspected were his wife's lovers - and he was determined to find out the truth during the divorce case.

The duchess's photographs with the "headless man" had started out as a private joke, but they were to become a key piece of evidence at the 1963 divorce hearing.

It was perhaps a sign of the times that after the photos were shown in court, the judge described what the duchess had been doing as "disgusting sexual activities".

The hearing completely destroyed the duchess's reputation - and sent the then Tory government into turmoil.

The Cabinet were already reeling from the Profumo scandal.

Minister John Profumo had just admitted lying to the House of Commons about his relationship with high-class call girl Christine Keeler and been forced to resign.

Now the Tories were facing claims that Sandys, the son-in-law of Winston Churchill, was the duchess's "headless man".

The Cabinet, fearing another possible security scandal, appointed the judge, Lord Denning, to investigate.

Denning had a plan. On four of the photographs, there were hand-written captions and he guessed, correctly, that by matching the handwriting, he would be able to identify the headless man.

Denning invited five key suspects, including Sandys and Fairbanks, into the Treasury, where he was conducting the inquiry.

As they arrived, each had to sign the visitor's register and Denning then employed a leading graph-ologist to analyse the handwriting. The results were conclusive.

The BBC's economics editor's Peter Jay, then a young Treasury official, was appointed to assist Denning and remembers the outcome well.

He said: "The headless man identified by the handwriting expert, and therefore identified by Lord Denning although he didn't write this down in his report, was in fact the actor Douglas Fairbanks Junior."

Suddenly, Sandys seemed to be in the clear.

But there was another photograph in which the duchess - apparently naked apart from her trademark pearl necklace - was shown "performing a sex act" on a second headless man. Unlike the others, this had no caption and the man was obviously someone other than Fairbanks.

The question of who he was remained a mystery.

And the duchess looked set to take the secret of his identity to her grave - until she gave that broad hint to close friend Paul Vaughan.

Details of their conversation - and the background to the Denning inquiry - are revealed in a Channel 4 documentary to be shown tonight.

Vaughan told the programme he is convinced the duchess knew what she was doing when she mentioned the Ministry of Defence.

He said: "If that wasn't running a flag up the flagpole, I don't know what was. She wanted someone to know."

Margaret, the only child of self-made millionaire George Whigham, was the society beauty of her generation.

Her marriage to the Duke of Argyll put her firmly in the public spotlight, but her appetite for sex was to prove her downfall.

And she never recovered from the scandal these photographs caused.

l Secret History: The Duchess and the Headless Man is on Channel 4 at 9pm tonight.
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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Spavin, Vicky
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Aug 10, 2000
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