‘The rent boys would claim to be over age but were more like14’
‘I THOUGHT I’d be dead by now, but I’m alarmingly well,’ says Roddam Twiss as I interview him at his dingy flat in West London.
At 78 his memory is as sharp as a knife as he describes the London rent-boy scene of the 1970s and 1980s and the ‘Meat Rack’: ‘It started at the railings of the Regent Palace Hotel.
‘Rent boys looking for customers would lean on the railings and men looking for boys would go and see if they fancied anyone.
‘But it was dangerous. Most of the boys just wanted to rob you for drugs. It was much safer to pick up one in one of Soho’s gay drinking clubs. They would all say they were over age but some were more like 14 or 15.’
Twiss says political figures were among those who went looking for rent boys. But asked if he knew their names, he replies ‘No. And if I could I wouldn’t tell you’, adding: ‘There were more Tories than Labour.’
He paints a vivid picture of the fear felt by homosexuals in those days: ‘You couldn’t leave a nightclub with someone you didn’t know, particularly a man, without attracting suspicion. The police could have arrested half the West End.’
When I ask Twiss what he knows about claims of a paedophile ring at Westminster, he says police investigating historic child abuse visited him recently and spent three hours asking him similar questions, mainly about Sir Edward Heath. He told them he did not believe the former PM abused young boys.
As we chat in his front room, Twiss introduces me to Martin, 28, who he says is his carer. A succession of other scruffy young men stroll in and out of the flat. ‘I’m gay – I make no bones about that,’ says Twiss, unprompted.
He says he met scandal-hit Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe ‘in passing’ and was ‘always suspicious’ about him, and adds that ‘everyone knew’ Cyril Smith was picking up young rent boys in Soho.
When I tell Truss he was followed by police around 1978 or 1979, he is shocked.
But he corroborates key aspects of the police story: he lived above a parade of shops in Cricklewood and was a regular visitor to Dolphin Square. However, he flatly denies Smith took a rent boy to his flat. ‘I knew Cyril was into boys. But absolutely not. It would have brought shame to my father.’
Asked if he was a ‘fixer’ who procured rent boys for other Westminster figures, he replies sharply: ‘Even if I was I wouldn’t tell you, I assure you.’ And he insists he never went to the ‘Meat Rack’.
However, he is happy to boast of his connections. ‘My father was Black Rod and high-profile in political circles… I used to visit him at the Lords where he had a grace and favour home.’
His second entrée to high society was through his ‘stockbroker’, the Hon Mervyn Greenway, millionaire playboy son of the 3rd Baron Greenway. ‘Mervyn knew everyone in high places,’ says Twiss. ‘I met them through him.’ He often visited Greenway at his flat in Dolphin Square, a place he says was perfect for residents, including Westminster figures, who wanted to misbehave.
‘If you knew the right porter, you’d leave a few pounds and they would allow your guests in with no questions asked.’
Parties would start in the flats and then ‘spill outside into the square on balmy summer evenings. It was ‘a den of iniquity for 30 years’, with residents’ ‘mistresses and prostitutes’ among the guests.
Including male prostitutes? ‘Yes, probably.’ But again, he can’t – or won’t – name names.
Twiss says his father ‘thought I should have done more with my life’ and was disappointed he did not follow him into the Armed Forces, instead going into teaching. But he refuses to believe his father banned him from the Palace of Westminster.
He says he gave up ‘spanking’ young boys long ago and he changed his name to Raymond Gibson after finishing his third jail sentence in 2006 and ‘disappeared’ from London, moving to Sheerness, Kent.
Twiss happily agreed to meet me for dinner the next day to continue our conversation. But he cried off at the last minute, texting: ‘I told you all I can remember. I am not willing to defame the dead because it will only hurt their families.’
VIP PARTIES: Dolphin Square