High-profile past of a man who is calling the shots

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The Independent Online

When Neil and Christine Hamilton received the call asking them to answer rape allegations, their first thought must have been to call their lawyer. The second appears to have been to alert their publicist.

That publicist was unveiled yesterday as Robert Smith, a former publisher and literary agent who has previously represented Christine Keeler, negotiated a book deal for a woman claiming to have dated 400 men in a year, and published a diary supposedly written by Jack the Ripper.

Mr Smith has been taken on by the Hamiltons despite their criticism of Max Clifford's involvement with the woman making sexual assault allegations against them and Mrs Hamilton's anger when she was asked if she was being advised how to act during media interviews.

His association with the couple began in 1997 when he worked on a book with the former Tory MP Piers Merchant ­ then under fire for an affair with an 18-year-old ­ who is a friend of the Hamiltons. Since then Mr Smith has negotiated media deals for the Hamiltons worth a reported £100,000.

The night the couple were arrested at Barkingside police station, he was on the phone to The Mail on Sunday, negotiating a fee, reportedly £15,000, for an exclusive interview.

Yesterday Mr Smith defended his clients, saying they did not give interviews to make money. "They do it because they feel they must do it. They feel attacked and they need to respond," he said.

Mr Smith, 56, who operates from Islington, north London, previously worked for Ebury Press and Sidgwick and Jackson. While at Smith Gryphon he bought the rights to a diary supposedly found in a Victorian mansion in Liverpool and purporting to show that its author, James Maybrick, was Jack the Ripper. There were allegations the diary was a fake and it was published with a cautionary note advising readers to judge its authenticity themselves.

Earlier this year he acted as literary agent for Ms Keeler. whose autobiography provoked a writ from the Countess of Dudley, who believed it implied she attended orgies in the years before the Profumo affair.