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'English Madam' Cynthia Payne dies

Britain's best known madam Cynthia Payne - who was nicknamed Madame Cyn - has died aged 82, her family said.

Payne first hit the headlines in 1978 when police raided a sex party at her home to find elderly men paying luncheon vouchers for lewd entertainment.

Her life was immortalised in two films, one starring Julie Walters and several books, including "An English Madam".

Family friend Kevin Horkin described her as "a national treasure" and an "extremely colourful archetypal English eccentric".

Mr Horkin added: "She was a person with a very big heart. She is someone who epitomised the phrase 'what you saw is what you got'.

"Her beliefs however, shone through strongly in the campaigning activity she was involved with in order to change Britain's sex laws, publicising the issue when she stood for Parliament on two occasions in the Kensington and Chelsea by-election of 1988 and in the General Election of 1992 in Streatham.

"She is someone who will be very sorely missed by all who knew her."

On her website Payne said: "I hit the headlines in 1978 when the police raided my home along a pleasant tree-lined avenue in suburban Streatham, interrupting a sex party that was in full swing.

"For months afterwards, the media would write of queues of middle aged and elderly men waiting to exchange their 'luncheon vouchers' for food, drink, friendly chat, striptease shows, and a trip upstairs with the girl of their choce.

"Vicars, MPs and lawyers were amongst those who considered me to be the best hostess in London (sic)."

She stood trial in 1980 and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment, reduced to six months and a fine on appeal, for running a brothel.

The films "Wish You Were Here" and "Personal Services" told the story of her life.

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