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Ronald & Reginald KRAY

 
 
 
 
 

 

 

 

 
Classification: Murderers
Characteristics: Gangsters
Number of victims: 2
Date of murder: March 9, 1966 / October 28, 1967
Date of arrest: May 9, 1968
Date of birth: October 24, 1933 (both)
Victims profile: George Cornell, 38 / Jack "The Hat" McVitie
Method of murder: Shooting / Stabbing with knife
Location: London, England, United Kingdom
Status: Both were sentenced to life imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 30 years on March 8, 1969. Ronald died on March 17, 1995. Reginald died on October 1, 2000
 
 
 
 

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Twin brothers Ronald "Ronnie" Kray (24 October 1933 – 17 March 1995) and Reginald "Reggie" Kray (24 October 1933 – 1 October 2000) were English gangsters who were the foremost perpetrators of organised crime in the East End of London during the 1950s and 1960s. Ronald, commonly called Ron or Ronnie, most likely suffered from paranoid schizophrenia.

With their gang, "The Firm", the Krays were involved in armed robberies, arson, protection rackets, assaults, and the murders of Jack "The Hat" McVitie and George Cornell.

As West End nightclub owners, they mixed with prominent entertainers including Diana Dors, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland and with politicians. The Krays were much feared within their milieu, and in the 1960s became celebrities in their own right, even being photographed by David Bailey and interviewed on television.

They were arrested on 9 May 1968 and convicted in 1969 by the efforts of a squad of detectives led by Detective Superintendent Leonard "Nipper" Read, and were both sentenced to life imprisonment.

Ronnie remained in Broadmoor Hospital until his death on 17 March 1995, but Reggie was released from prison on compassionate grounds in August 2000, eight weeks before his death from cancer.

Early life

Ronnie and Reggie Kray were born on 24 October 1933 in Hoxton, East London, to Charles David "Charlie" Kray, Sr., (10 March 1907 – 8 March 1983), a scrap gold dealer, and Violet Lee (5 August 1909 – 7 August 1982). Reggie was born about 10 minutes before his twin Ronnie. Their parents already had a six-year old son, Charles Jr, (9 July 1926 – 4 April 2000). A sister, Violet, born 1929, died in infancy. When the twins were three years old, they contracted diphtheria but recovered. Ron Kray almost died in 1942 from a head injury suffered in a fight with his twin brother.

In 1938, the Kray family moved from Stean Street, Hoxton, to 178 Vallance Road, Bethnal Green. At the beginning of the Second World War, 32-year-old Charles Kray was conscripted into the army, but went into hiding rather than serve.

The twins first attended Wood Close School in Brick Lane and then went to Daniel Street School.

The influence of their maternal grandfather, Jimmy "Cannonball" Lee, caused both boys to take up amateur boxing, at that time a popular pastime for working class boys in the East End. Sibling rivalry spurred them on, and they both achieved some success. They are said to have never lost a match before turning professional at age 19.

National service

The Kray twins were notorious locally for their gang and its violence. They narrowly avoided being sent to prison several times, and 1952 both were called up for national service with the Royal Fusiliers. They reported, but they deserted several times, always being recaptured.

While absent without leave, the brothers assaulted a police constable who tried to arrest them. They were held at the Tower of London (among the very last prisoners ever kept there) before being transferred to Shepton Mallet military prison in Somerset for a month to await court-martial. They were convicted and sent to the Home Counties Brigade Depot jail in Canterbury, Kent. Their behaviour in prison was so bad that they both received dishonourable discharges from the army. For their few weeks in prison, when their conviction was certain, they tried to dominate the exercise area outside their one-man cells. They threw tantrums, emptied their latrine bucket over a sergeant, dumped a dixie (a large camp kettle) full of hot tea on another guard, handcuffed a guard to their prison bars with a pair of stolen cuffs, and burned their bedding. Major Peter B Engel, RAMC was tasked with administering sedation to try and subdue the pair. He used the largest, longest hypodermic needle he could find and, with great difficulty, did manage to make the two injections. Major Engel was the only man the twins were scared of. Before their conviction, when they were moved from a one-man cell to a communal one, they assaulted their guard with a china vase and escaped. Quickly recaptured, while awaiting transfer to civilian authority for crimes committed while at large, they spent their last night in Canterbury drinking cider, eating crisps, and smoking cigarillos courtesy of the young national servicemen acting as their guards.

Criminal careers

Nightclub owners

Their criminal records and dishonourable discharges ended their boxing careers, and they turned to crime. They bought a run down local snooker club in Bethnal Green, where they started several protection rackets. By the end of the 1950s, the Krays were involved in hijacking, armed robbery and arson, through which they acquired a few clubs and other properties. In 1960 Ronnie Kray was imprisoned for 18 months for running a protection racket and related threats. While he was in prison, Peter Rachman, head of a violent landlord operation, gave Reggie a nightclub called Esmeralda's Barn on the Knightsbridge end of Wilton Place next to Joan's Kitchen, a bistro. The location is where the Berkeley Hotel now stands, on the corner opposite the church.

This increased the Krays' influence in the West End, by now celebrities rather than criminals. They were assisted by a banker named Alan Cooper, who wanted protection from the Krays' rivals, the Richardsons, based in South London.

Celebrity status

In the 1960s, they were widely seen as prosperous and charming celebrity nightclub owners and were part of the Swinging London scene. A large part of their fame was due to their non-criminal activities as popular figures on the celebrity circuit, being photographed by David Bailey on more than one occasion; and socialising with lords, MPs, socialites and show business characters such as the actors George Raft, Judy Garland, Diana Dors, Barbara Windsor and singer Frank Sinatra.

"They were the best years of our lives. They called them the swinging sixties. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were rulers of pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world... and me and my brother ruled London. We were fucking untouchable..." – Ronnie Kray, in his autobiographical book, My Story.

Lord Boothby and Tom Driberg

The Krays also came into the public eye when an exposι in the tabloid newspaper Sunday Mirror alleged that Ron had had a sexual relationship with Lord Boothby, a UK Conservative Party politician. Although no names were printed, when the twins threatened the journalists involved in the story and Boothby threatened to sue, the newspaper backed down, sacked its editor, printed an apology and paid Boothby £40,000 in an out-of-court settlement. As a result, other newspapers were unwilling to uncover the Krays' connections and criminal activities.

The police investigated the Krays on several occasions, but the twins' reputation for violence meant witnesses were afraid to come forward to testify. There was also a political problem for both main parties. It was in the interests of neither the Conservative Party to press the police to end the Krays' power lest the Boothby connection was again publicised and demonstrated, nor the Labour Party as their MP Tom Driberg was also rumoured to have had a relationship with Ron.

Frank Mitchell

On 12 December 1966 the Krays helped Frank Mitchell, "The Mad Axeman", to escape from Dartmoor Prison (Frank Mitchell should not be confused with the contemporaneous Frankie Fraser, "Mad Frankie Fraser", who allied with the Krays' rivals, the Richardson gang). Ronnie had befriended Mitchell while they served time together in Wandsworth prison. Mitchell felt the authorities should review his case for parole, so Ronnie felt he would be doing him a favour by getting him out of Dartmoor, highlighting his case in the media and forcing the authorities to act.

Once Mitchell was out of Dartmoor, the Krays held him at a friend's flat in Barking Road, East Ham. However, as a large man with a mental disorder, he was difficult to deal with. He disappeared and his body has never been found. The Krays were acquitted of his murder. Freddie Foreman, a former member of The Firm, in his autobiography Respect claimed that Mitchell was shot and the body disposed of at sea.

Playwright Gill Adams wrote the play 'Jump to Cow Heaven', based on Frank Mitchell's time in hiding in the flat in Barking Road and his relationship with his minder and with an escort sent by the Krays to keep him company. The award-winning original production included Martin Freeman in the cast.

George Cornell

Ronnie Kray shot and killed George Cornell in the Blind Beggar pub in Whitechapel on 9 March 1966. Ronnie was drinking in another pub when he heard that Cornell was in the Blind Beggar. Taking Reggie's driver John "Scotch Jack" Dickson and Ian Barrie, his right-hand man, he then killed Cornell. Just before Cornell died, he remarked "Well, look who's here." There had been a confrontation at Christmas 1965 between the Krays and the Richardsons at the Astor Club, when Cornell, an associate of the Richardsons, referred to Ronnie as a "fat poof". However, Ronnie denied this and said that the reason for the killing was because he was threatening him and Reggie.

The result was a gang war between the two, and Kray associate Richard Hart was murdered at Mr. Smith's Club in Catford on 8 March 1966. Ronnie avenged Hart's death by shooting Cornell. "Mad" Frankie Fraser was taken to court for Hart's murder but was found not guilty. A member of the Richardsons gang claimed that he saw him kicking Hart. Cornell was the only one to escape from the brawl in top condition so it is likely that Ronnie thought that he was involved in the murder. Owing to intimidation, witnesses would not cooperate with the police.

Jack "the Hat" McVitie

The Krays' criminal activities continued hidden behind their celebrity status and "legitimate" businesses. In October 1967, four months after the suicide of his wife Frances, Reggie was alleged to have been encouraged by his brother to kill Jack "the Hat" McVitie, a minor member of the Kray gang who had failed to fulfil a £1,500 contract paid to him in advance by the Krays to kill Leslie Payne. McVitie was lured to a basement flat in Evering Road, Stoke Newington on the pretence of a party. As he entered, Reggie Kray pointed a handgun at his head and pulled the trigger twice, but the gun failed to discharge. Ronnie Kray then held McVitie in a bearhug and Reggie Kray was handed a carving knife. He stabbed McVitie in the face and stomach, driving it deep into his neck, twisting the blade, continuing as McVitie lay on the floor dying.

Several other members of The Firm including the Lambrianou brothers (Tony and Chris) were convicted of this. In Tony Lambrianou's biography, he claims that when Reggie was stabbing Jack, his liver came out and he had to flush it down the toilet. McVitie's body has never been recovered.

Arrest and trial

When Inspector Leonard "Nipper" Read of Scotland Yard was promoted to the Murder Squad, his first assignment was to bring down the Kray twins. It was not his first involvement with Reg and Ron; during the first half of 1964 Read had been investigating their activities, but publicity and official denials surrounding allegations of Ron's relationship with Boothby had made the evidence he collected useless. Read tackled the problem of convicting the twins with renewed activity in 1967, but frequently came up against the East End "wall of silence", which discouraged anyone from providing information to the police.

Nevertheless, by the end of 1967 Read had built up evidence against the Krays. Witness statements incriminated them, as well as other evidence, but none added up to a convincing case on any one charge.

Early in 1968 the twins used a man named Alan Bruce Cooper who hired and sent Paul Elvey to Glasgow to buy explosives for rigging a car bomb. Elvey was the radio engineer who put Radio Sutch, later renamed Radio City on the air in 1964. Police detained him in Scotland and he confessed he had been involved in three botched murder attempts. However, this evidence was weakened by Cooper, who claimed to be an agent for the United States Treasury Department investigating links between the American Mafia and the Kray gang. The botched murders were his work, in an attempt to pin something on the Krays. Read tried using Cooper, who was also being employed as a source by one of Read's superior officers, as a trap for Ron and Reg, but they stayed away from him.

Conviction and imprisonment

Eventually, a Scotland Yard conference decided to arrest the Krays on the evidence already collected, in the hope that other witnesses would be forthcoming once the Krays were in custody. On 8 May 1968, the Krays and 15 other members of their "firm" were arrested. Many witnesses came forward now that the Krays' reign of intimidation was over, and it was relatively easy to gain a conviction. The Krays and 14 others were convicted, with one member of the firm being acquitted. One of the firm members that provided a lot of the information to the police was arrested yet only for a short period. Out of the 17 official firm members, 16 were arrested and convicted.

The twins' defence, under their counsel John Platts-Mills, QC, consisted of flat denials of all charges and the discrediting of witnesses by pointing out their criminal past. The judge, Mr Justice Melford Stevenson said: "In my view, society has earned a rest from your activities."

Both were sentenced to life imprisonment, with a non-parole period of 30 years for the murders of Cornell and McVitie, the longest sentences ever passed at the Old Bailey (Central Criminal Court, London) for murder. Their brother Charlie was jailed for 10 years for his part in the murders.

Imprisonment

On 11 August 1982, under tight security, Ronnie and Reggie Kray were allowed to attend the funeral of their mother Violet, who had died of cancer the week before, but they were not allowed to attend the graveside service at Chingford Mount Cemetery in East London where their mother was interred in the Kray family plot. The service was attended by celebrities including Diana Dors and underworld figures known to the Krays. The twins did not ask to attend their father's funeral when he died seven months later in March 1983, to avoid the publicity that had surrounded their mother's funeral.

Deaths

Ronnie was eventually once more certified insane and lived the remainder of his life in Broadmoor Hospital, Crowthorne, dying on 17 March 1995 of a heart attack, aged 61.

Reggie Kray was a Category A prisoner, denied almost all liberties and not allowed to mix with other prisoners. However, in his later years, he was downgraded to Category C and transferred to Wayland Prison in Norfolk.

In 1985, officials at Broadmoor Hospital discovered a business card of Ron's, which prompted an investigation that revealed the twins – incarcerated at separate institutions – along with their older brother, Charlie, and another accomplice who was not in prison, were operating a "lucrative bodyguard and 'protection' business for Hollywood stars". Documents released under Freedom of Information laws revealed that officials were concerned about this operation, called Krayleigh Enterprises, but believed there was no legal basis to shut it down. Documentation of the investigation revealed that Frank Sinatra hired 18 bodyguards from Krayleigh Enterprises in 1985.

During incarceration, Reggie became a born again Christian. After serving more than the recommended 30 years he was sentenced to in March 1969, he was finally freed from Wayland on 26 August 2000, at almost 67 years old. He was released on compassionate grounds due to having inoperable bladder cancer. The final weeks of his life were spent with his wife Roberta, whom he had married while in Maidstone Prison in July 1997, in a suite at the Townhouse Hotel at Norwich, having left Norwich hospital on 22 September 2000. On 1 October 2000, Reggie Kray died in his sleep. Ten days later, he was buried alongside his brother Ronnie, in Chingford Mount Cemetery.

Elder brother Charlie Kray was released in 1975 after serving seven years, but returned to prison in 1997 for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine worth £69m in an undercover drugs sting. He died of natural causes in prison on 4 April 2000, six months before Reggie's death.

Personal lives

Ronnie was openly bisexual, evidenced by his book My Story and a confession to writer Robin McGibbon on The Kray Tapes where he states, "I'm bisexual, not gay. Bisexual." He also planned on marrying a lady named Monica in the 1960s whom he had dated for nearly three years. He called her "the most beautiful woman he had ever seen." This is mentioned in Reggie's book Born Fighter. Also, extracts are mentioned in Ron's own book My Story and Kate Kray's books Sorted, Murder, Madness and Marriage and Free at Last. He was arrested before he had the chance to marry Monica and even though she married Ronnie's ex-boyfriend, 59 letters sent to her between May and December 1968 when he was imprisoned show he still had feelings for her and his love for her is very clear. He refers to her as "my little angel" and "my little doll." She also still had feelings for Ronnie. These letters were auctioned in 2010.

A letter to his mother Violet, sent from prison in 1968, also gives references to Monica; "if they let me see Monica and put me with Reg, I could not ask for more." He went on to say, with spelling mistakes, "Monica is the only girl I have liked in my life. She is a luvely little person as you know. When you see her, tell her I am in luve with her more than ever." Reggie once had a one night stand with Barbara Windsor, whose EastEnders character Peggy Mitchell was reputedly based on Violet Kray (i.e. her matriarchy over two thuggish sons).

In an interview with author John Pearson, Ronnie indicated a strong identification with Gordon of Khartoum, explaining: "Gordon was like me, 'omosexual, and he met his death like a man. When it's time for me to go, I hope I do the same."

Controversies

There was a long-running campaign, with some minor celebrity support, to have the twins released from prison, but successive Home Secretaries vetoed the idea, largely on the grounds that the Krays' prison records were both marred by violence towards other inmates. The campaign gathered momentum after the release of a film based on their lives called The Krays in 1990. Produced by Ray Burdis, it starred Spandau Ballet brothers Martin and Gary Kemp, who played the roles of Reggie and Ronnie respectively.

Reggie wrote: "I seem to have walked a double path most of my life. Perhaps an extra step in one of those directions might have seen me celebrated rather than notorious." Others, however, point to Reggie's violent prison record when he was being detained separately from Ronnie and argue that in reality, the twins' temperaments were little different.

Reggie's marriage to Frances Shea in 1965 lasted eight weeks, although the marriage was never formally dissolved. An inquest came to the conclusion that she committed suicide in 1967, but in 2002 an ex-lover of Reggie Kray came forward to allege that Frances was actually murdered by a jealous Ronnie. Bradley Allardyce spent three years in Maidstone Prison with Reggie and explained, "I was sitting in my cell with Reg and it was one of those nights where we turned the lights down low and put some nice music on and sometimes he would reminisce. He would get really deep and open up to me. He suddenly broke down and said 'I'm going to tell you something I've only ever told two people and something I've carried around with me' – something that had been a black hole since the day he found out. He put his head on my shoulder and told me Ronnie killed Frances. He told Reggie what he had done two days after."

In 2009 a British television documentary, The Gangster and the Pervert Peer, was aired which showed that Ronnie Kray was a man-on-man rapist (commonly referred to in criminal circles as a "nonce case"). The programme also went on to detail his relationship with Tory Lord Bob Boothby as well as an ongoing Daily Mirror investigation into Lord Boothby's dealings with the Kray brothers.

Wikipedia.org

 
 

The Krays

Legend has it that the East End of London in the 1950s and 1960s was one of the safest places to live in the UK - somewhere you could leave your door unlocked at night, and the elderly got the respect they deserved.

It was also known as the home of some of the most violent and dangerous criminals that ever existed in the UK, and mainly because of two twin brothers who shot a man in the Blind Beggar pub.

The first thing that stands out about the Blind Beggar pub on the Mile End Road is the colour red. The ceiling is thickly coated with a deep red paint, the walls are red and even the light bulbs are red. This dιcor might sound a bit garish to look at, but it's not the real reason that the pubs is now a tourist attraction - the real reason for that is the Krays.

Born early morning on October 24th 1933, Ronald and Reginald Kray were separated by just ten minutes.

Their early years were spent in Shoreditch in London until 1939 when they moved to 178 Vallance Road, Bethnal Green. Their father was around every now and again, but the main core of the family consisted of the twins, their mother Violet, and their elder brother Charlie.

By all accounts, Violet was a good mother who did her best to bring up her children well. A host of aunts, uncles and grandparents all lived very nearby, but World War II caused the family to be evacuated to Hadeleigh, a small village in the Suffolk countryside.

Like most children, the idyllic countryside around Hadeleigh was a world that the twins and Charlie loved, but their mother missed her friends and family in the East End, and much to the dismay of the boys, they moved back to the war-torn East End after a year.

In order to stay out of trouble, all three boys took up boxing. Charlie turned out to be a fair fighter, but it was Ronnie and Reggie who got local press attention for their exploits in the ring - and soon they would be getting attention for very different reasons.

Eastenders

Despite the myths, the East End of London in the post-war era was a rough place to live in, and gangs of boys roamed the street without fear. It was not unusual for weapons to be carried, and the twins soon earned the violent reputations that have endured to this day.

Their most distinct trademark was to not consider the fight finished until the opponent was completely vanquished. Throughout this time, the Kray twins had constant run-ins with the police, but an underground network kept them away from any serious prison time. And although they were feared and probably respected, the Krays kept their activities within the boundaries of their community.

They ran protection rackets in the local area until 1960 when they branched out and opened a gambling club in Knightsbridge. The rest of the country, indeed, even the rest of London, remained unaware of the Kray family activities until 1964, when a newspaper reported a story that Scotland Yard was investigating a homosexual relationship between an underground criminal and a distinguished Peer.

In typical tabloid style, no names were mentioned, but identities were obvious. Ronnie Kray had no say in the matter, but Lord Boothby, a former Conservative Minister was paid £40,000 in an out of court settlement, a huge amount for the time.

Their reign of violence continued more or less unchecked for another four years and the police seemed helpless. The local community kept silent if questioned, and the East End kept a closed mouth for the law.

Ronnie was especially concerned with a celebrity lifestyle. His homosexuality was an open secret in the underground world, but it was his psychopathic nature that gave most cause for concern. Fellow criminals were far too scared of him to consider teasing him for what was at that time a criminal activity and social stigma. The Kray twins were not physically large men, but there is no record of them ever losing a fight or brawl.

Ronnie was the most feared due to his unpredictability, but Reggie was not to be underestimated. Known for being the quieter of the two, Reggie aimed to have what he referred to as "the good life", with a wife, material possessions and respect.

Evading the law

The veil of silence that met the police from any victims of the Krays meant that they were allowed to go about their illegal business largely unchecked. Scotland Yard knew exactly what they had been getting up to, but without witnesses, they were helpless to convict them.

In 1956, Ronnie shot a man, and the police attempted to arrest him, but Ronnie pretended to be Reggie and had a convincing alibi for the time of the shooting.

This was one incident in a long string of embarrassments for the police, in their attempts to curb the twin's activities. And they eventually had to release whichever of the Kray twins they had in custody. This escape bolstered Ronnie's confidence, but caused a rift between the twin's previously incredibly close bonds. Ronnie felt invincible against the law whilst Reggie preferred to keep their heads down and concentrate on the money-making side of things rather than just violence for violence's sake.

Ronnie eventually fell foul of the law and was sentenced to three years for a beating that both the twins had taken part in. Ronnie had nothing to fear from prison life and he ran his business in much the same way as he did on the outside. Meanwhile, Reggie seemed to find some sort of relief out of the shadow of his brother, and started showing his ability as a leader rather than second-in-command; he even started some legitimate businesses.

It wasn't long before Ronnie was moved to a prison on the Isle of Wight. Where without any of his previous contacts, he began to withdraw into himself, and the mental disorder that was always beneath the surface, began to become more apparent. Just after Christmas 1957, Ronnie learnt that his beloved Aunt Rose had died, and his psychosis became so severe that two days later he was certified insane.

Changing identities

Ronnie was transferred to a hospital, and it was here that he and Reggie hatched an escape plan - once again it was done using the swapping of identities. After his escape, Ronnie's mental health deteriorated further, and he became more and more paranoid. This resulted in Reggie, Charlie and the rest of the family doing what was previously unthinkable, and turning Ronnie over to the police.

Ronnie went without a word of complaint, and completed his sentence in Wandsworth Prison. On his release Ronnie seemed to have come through the other side of his madness, but his illness and prison life changed him physically. He was no longer identical to Reggie. He looked much worse.

Ronnie tried to get back into the business, but his normal behaviour did not last long and he became a violent embarrassment and a liability to his twin, who seemed to be getting more involved in the legitimate side of things. Reggie just wanted a quiet life, whilst Ronnie was more concerned with gangland respect and pure violence that was not always needed.

The Krays had convinced people that they had policemen, politicians and other high-ranking officials in their pockets, and their name was enough to invoke fear with no need to enforce any violence. Club owners even approached them first for "protection" and a large part of their income came from elaborate, clever and non-violent fraud schemes.

The family comes first

The Krays and their men were by no means the only gang in London, and this led to infighting and rivalry that eventually would spill over into violence - particularly with associates of the Richardson brothers.

One member of the Richardson gang who came into contact with the Krays was 'Mad' Frankie Fraser. An extremely violent and remorseless criminal, Fraser attempted to take over a chain of gambling machines that had belonged to the Krays.

In return for Fraser's infringement, the Krays tried to bully the Richardson's into sharing the percentages from another of their rackets. This in turn annoyed another associate of the Richardsons - George Cornell.

Cornell was a huge well-built man - known to be a bully - and he had worked with the Krays before moving over the join the Richardson gang. During a gun battle in a Catford club called "Mr Smith's", a man called Richard Hart was shot dead. The rumour on the street was that Cornell had been there that night, and it was he who had shot Hart.

This might not seem unusual for a man as violent as Cornell, but the man he shot was not just some lowlife nobody. Richard Hart was a cousin of Ronnie and Reggie Kray, and as 'the family' was the most important thing to the twins, a personal slight had to be avenged.

The incident at Mr Smith's had already brought down the Richardson gang, but that was not enough for the Krays to justify the murder of one of their cousins.

Revenge served cold

On March 9th 1966, Ronnie, Reggie and other members of their firm were drinking in The Lion pub when they were informed that Cornell was drinking in the Blind Beggar pub just down the road.

At 8.30 that night, Ronnie and one of his associates walked into the Blind Beggar, only to be met by a sarcastic greeting from big George Cornell. Ronnie didn't hesitate as he pulled out a pistol and shot Cornell three times in the head.

It was never proven that Cornell was responsible for Hart's death, but unfortunately for him, any other member of the Richardson gang was either in hospital or in prison at the time, and Cornell was the only one available to bear the brunt of the Kray's revenge.

Soon after, Ronnie sank into another depression, and he was not alone, as his brother reeled under guilt about his wife's suicide. Reggie's dream of a nice, quiet life was slowly ebbing away.

It all came crashing down around the twins when they tried to get even with Jack "The Hat" McVitie.

One wrong move

McVitie had been an associate of the twins for some time, and although he never actually belonged to the Firm, he was used regularly employed by the twins to commit various jobs for them.

Ronnie had paid McVitie in advance to kill Leslie Payne, whom he believed was going to inform on him to the police. McVitie never carried out the execution, but stupidly kept the money. And if that wasn't dangerous enough, McVitie had the cheek to threaten several bar owners who were under the protection of the Krays.

McVitie was riding for a fall, and on October 29th 1967, he was invited to a party with some of his underworld associates and their families. What McVitie didn't know was that the twins had arrived at the party first and had spent an hour clearing away guests. When McVitie walked in, Reggie put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

Fortunately for McVitie, the gun jammed, which caused Ronnie to lose his temper in a most violent manner.

A brief scuffle ensued, and encouraged by more violent twin, Reggie threw down the gun and turned on McVitie with a knife, eventually stabbing him multiple times in the face, chest and stomach.

Brought to justice

The Krays were finally arrested by the same Scotland Yard officials who had been trailing their exploits for years, and along with other members of their gang, including Charlie Kray, they appeared at the Old Bailey in 1969.

Charlie received seven years for various offences, whilst his brothers received life sentences with a minimum of 30 years recommended.

Despite the obvious restriction on their freedom, prison seemed to do more to encourage the myth and legend surrounding the Krays. Both twins wrote best selling books about their lives, and in 1990, a full-length film was made chronicling the brothers' exploits including the murder of Jack The Hat.

Campaigners for their release, have always felt their sentences were harsh due to the fact that their victims were never members of the general public - rather they were fellow criminals who each had a hefty life of violent crime behind them.

Ronnie Kray died in prison in 1996, and Reggie was allowed out for one day to attend the funeral. In August 2000, the Home Secretary decided Reggie could be released on compassionate grounds - he had served 31 years in prison.

Six weeks later Reggie Kray died of cancer, ending a legacy of crime that mixed elements of extreme violence with the myth of criminals that only killed their own.

BBC - Crime Case Closed

 
 

The Kray Twins: Brothers in Arms

By Thomas L. Jones - TruTV.com


East is East

In the 1960's, the British media often represented the East End of London as a somewhat glamorous and trendy area because of its underworld connotations. Images by famous photographer David Bailey showed snappily dressed young men wearing stylish suits and narrow ties, stovepipe trousers and sharply pointed shoes. TV stories and newspaper articles featured grainy images of street fights and gangland altercations. Brash, cocky young men maneuvered their way through an underworld, observed but not comprehended by a general public. You went through the East End, but did not stay to linger or browse. It was almost a world apart from the rest of London; a tight-knit community, butting onto the dockland region that stretched from Tower Bridge east up the River Thames. It was an area dominated by trade and commerce, some of which was no doubt being siphoned off into the pockets of criminal groups that operated here. Murder, extortion, thieving, money lending and prostitution were a way of life in the poverty stricken atmosphere of south and east London.

The rapid growth and industrialization of the area, from early nineteenth century onwards, created a huge working class population, that soon became jammed into overcrowded, filthy and poverty induced conditions. People lived their squalid lives against a backdrop of numbing drunkenness, immorality, crime and violence. Robbery, rape and assault were endemic, and gangs often ruled the streets. Thoroughfares were filthy and often unlit at night, and brothels and marauding prostitutes were commonplace.

American author Jack London, on a visit, described the area as "Outcast London." George Gissing, the Victorian author best remembered for his novels New Grub Street and The Nether World, and a career marked by a relentlessly prolific output and a stunning capacity for self-punishment, took one look, and thought of it as "the City of the Dead."

Inland, north from the docks and warehouses that flanked the River Thames, unpleasant, odorous and dirty trades epitomized by the building of slaughter houses, glue factories, rendering plants, soap-boilers, engineering works and coal storage, were being established. The insatiable demand for leather goods resulted in the growth of many tanning yards where the leather-workers used a substance for darkening down hides that was known as "pure" which was gathered from the streets each night by the dirtiest and lowest of the local inhabitants "pure" being a Victorian euphemism for dog turds.

The sickly odor of hops and yeast drifted across the landscape from the chimneys of dozens of breweries. These industries were all established in the East side of London because the predominant westerly winds kept the stink away from what was to grow into the rich, fashionable and aristocratic West End. Behind the high brick walls and paling fences was a world where thousands of dockworkers built and serviced the ships of the greatest maritime nation on earth. People lived, crammed into areas between docks, factories, warehouses and the river, separated from each other by mazes of railway lines, bridges and culverts. Dock owners relied heavily on casual labor after World War One and job security was rare, but poverty was rife.

Although the destruction caused by bombing raids in the Second World War, and subsequent modern development has altered the look of much of the East End since the days of Charles Dickens, there are still streets in this area that have hardly changed in 300 years.

It is an area redolent of its historical past and cosmopolitan makeup. Jews from Poland, Russia and Rumania fleeing anti-Semitism, settled here along with French Protestant Huguenots. Minorities and oppressed people poured into the area over the years, creating a rich and diverse mixture of cultures and traditions. In the old dockside villages of Limehouse and Rotherhithe, there are still Swedish chemists, Norwegian churches and Chinese restaurants run by the descendants of the people Conan Doyle used as the contacts Sherlock Holmes visited to score his opium supplies.

The East End was also the recipient of good as well as evil. William Booth founded the Salvation Army here and opened his first house in Whitechapel, close to Christopher Wren's Trinity House. George Peabody, an American who lived most of his life in London, bequeathed his considerable fortune to a charitable trust to fund education and slum clearance. Thomas Barnado, an Irishman, became superintendent of an impoverished free school, and in 1870, opened his first Children's Home. In a lifetime of unselfish toil, he rescued and trained 60,000 destitute children and helped 250,000 more in want. The London Hospital, the largest general hospital in Britain situated in the East End, became the final home to John Merrick, famous as "The Elephant Man."

The East End was a setting for some of the most famous detective and mystery thrillers ever written. The novels of Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Wallace and Arthur Anthony Ward created images featuring criminal malfeasance of the deepest hues, involving the immortal characters-Sherlock Holmes and the evil genius of Fu Manchu, among others.

The East End is also famous as the stamping ground of the first world-famous serial killer: a man who subsequently became celebrated as Jack the Ripper. In 1888, between Friday 31st August and Friday 9th November, he savagely murdered and mutilated five women. All the killings involved prostitutes as victims, and all occurred in or near Whitechapel, a squalid, densely populated rabbit warren of a suburb flanking the City of London.

Just to the north in an area called Hoxton (now known as Shoreditch), in a dingy terraced house in Stene Street, lived Charlie and Violet Kray and their son Charlie Jr.

On Tuesday October 24th 1933, at 8 a.m., Violet gave birth to twins boys who would be christened Ronnie and Reggie. Reggie came into the world first ten minutes ahead of Ronnie. They would grow up to become, arguably, Britain's most famous and infamous gangsters. Their rise to prominence was inextricably linked to their birthplace and its legends and folklore.

In comparison to the Mafia of Sicily and the American Cosa Nostra, the criminal fiefdom that they would create in the years ahead, was more akin to a raucous bunch of "jack-the-lads" than an evil organized crime cartel. But their fame or notoriety is vested more in the manner with which they achieved their violent status as much as in the quality of their acts of violence.

Their career was marked by the sheer improbability of their success and the ease with which they achieved it. Old style cockney villains, they came close to building a criminal empire, with an effortlessness that illustrated just how out of touch the forces of law and order were in this period, and how little the British establishment comprehended the true meaning of organized crime.

They were only ever convicted of two murders (one each) and both of their victims were miserable, low-life street thugs, with little to redeem them and as about as sympathetic a duo as Goebbles and Himmler. They were never charged or convicted of drug dealing, union manipulation and corruption or terrorism of the order demonstrated by their Italian or American counterparts. And yet, when finally cornered, tried and convicted, they received the heaviest prison sentence ever handed down by a British court of law. Reggie still languishes in prison, thirty-one years after being sentenced. Ronnie died there, of a heart attack. Many people believe that the real victim in the case of Regina v Kray was the law itself


Growing Up

The Krays were an old-fashioned East End family: self sufficient, very clannish and devoted to each other. Their ancestors had arrived in Britain from Austria, and the twins had Irish, Jewish and Romany (gypsy) blood in their veins.

Early in their lives, the twins were taken ill, having caught diphtheria. Reggie recovered quickly, but Ronnie almost died of the infection.

In 1939, the year that World War Two began, the family migrated from Shoreditch, one of the most overcrowded areas in London, and moved about one mile east down the road to settle in Bethnal Green at 178 Vallance Road. It was a small, row house with no bathroom, and the toilet was located in the back yard.

In those days, Vallance Road was part of a ghetto. There were many gambling dens, seedy pubs, billiard halls and brothels dotted across the blighted landscape. It was an area of hardened drinkers and boxing enthusiasts. It was renowned for its slum housing and high crime levels, and had some of the highest unemployment levels in Britain. The district was badly bombed during the War; before that it was one of the poorest parts of the entire East End and a breeding ground for criminals. It was the home of Bill Sykes, and Jack the Ripper murdered one of his victims here in Hanbury Street.

The Krays became very much a part of this vanishing Dickensian world. The older family members were well-known and distinctive local characters. "Mad" Jimmy Kray, the paternal grandfather, was a stallholder in Petticoat Lane, renowned for both his drinking prowess and his ability as a bar-fighter.

The maternal grandfather, Jimmy Lee the "Southpaw Cannonball," had in his youth, been a bare-knuckle boxer, and then a music hall entertainer. He was a rarity in the family as he was a non-drinker. He and his son-in-law Charles, the twins' father, clashed frequently over the subject of booze. Granddad Lee was famous for his many talents and party tricks, which included stroking a white hot poker over his tongue, walking on bottle tops, tap dancing and singing and playing musical instruments.

In his younger days he had been a great athlete, and on one occasion when his son Johnny drove a group of friends in a hired bus to Southend-on-Sea, a distance of forty-two miles, Granddad Lee turned up on his bicycle, having ridden to the venue just for the fun. His son was hard pressed to persuade him to make the return journey on the bus. Granddad was seventy-five at the time!

Young Charlie David Kray, the twins' brother, had been born in 1927 at the first family home in Gorusch Street in Hackney, the northern point of a triangle that included Shoreditch and Bethnal Green. His father, Charlie senior, had a great passion for boxing and passed this on to his three sons. Young Charlie often dreamed of winning the Lonsdale Belt as boxing champion of the world. He was seven when the twins were born and would often wheel them around the neighborhood in their pram.

Violet's husband was a "pesterer," a traveling trader, who would go on the "knocker," roaming the country buying and selling silver, gold and clothing. He became a familiar sight in the provinces with his old clothes bag and a pair of gold scales. He earned good money and his family lived well above the standard of most others in Bethnal Green. A spendthrift, gambler and "serious" drinking man who was friendly with many of the better known East End villains of his day, he was something of an absentee father as his twin sons were growing up.

As Charlie roamed the country buying and selling, Violet worked hard at holding the family together. She was a warm, generous woman, softly spoken, but with great will power and perseverance. As a girl, Violet had been something of a local beauty. She was strong-willed, romantic and possessive. With her husband away from home so much, she built her life around her three sons. She was endowed with a great singing voice and had a wonderful sanguine personality, never seeming to criticize or complain about anything. She always kept the twins well dressed, and taught them the values of respect and the need to treat people less fortunate than themselves with consideration and understanding.

Like most Cockney matriarchs, she understood the importance of family values and the strength and support they create in times of stress and adversity. Her sisters Rose and May, lived either side of her in Vallance Road; her brother Jimmy shared her home and slept at nights in the living room of the small terraced house, while Granddad Lee, his wife and son John, lived across the road above the cafι they operated.

Aunty Rose was the twins' favorite. When Ronnie was teased in school about his eyebrows being too close, she told him that it was an omen — that he was "born to be hanged." Her death in later years was the catalyst that finally tipped Ronnie over the edge into the madness that had been waiting to claim him for most of his adult life.

Charles David was a gentle, easygoing sort of child. As a young man he worked as a messenger for Lloyds of London in the City. He became more and more involved in boxing, training in the local gym. His Granddad Lee set up a punch bag and a small gym in a spare room in the Vallance Road house. Charles carried out his National Service in the Royal Navy, where he boxed as a welterweight, winning many fights. He was eventually discharged, medically unfit, because of severe migraine attacks.

He joined up with his father, working as a dealer in second hand clothing and precious metals. On Christmas Day, 1948, he married his childhood sweetheart, a girl called Dorothy Moore and, after converting his gym back into a bedroom, they moved into Vallance Road. Charlie's wife was apparently possessive, highly-strung, moody and had a vivid imagination; in addition she did not make friends easily, and the twins didn't care for her very much. As Charlie spent more and more time with his wife, he and his brothers pulled further and further apart.

Growing up, the twins were little devils. They were identical, dark-eyed like their father, and tough little nuts. Violet and her parents doted on them, and they were indulged particularly by their Aunt Rose. Rose had been a pretty woman in her youth, but with a flaming temper, who often would fight, physically, with other women in the street. After the twins had caught diphtheria and measles, Ronnie seemed slower and more socially awkward than Reggie, who seemed to find it easier to get on with people than his brother did.

Charlie taught the twins to box and they proved so good at this that they got through to the finals of the London Schools Boxing Championship three times, and even ended up on one occasion fighting each other. In December 1951, all three brothers appeared on the same billing at a middle-weight boxing championship held at the Royal Albert Hall.

The twins were always inseparable. They would often fight each other, but would never allow a third party to come between them. Like many identical twins, they seemed "different" to the other tough little kids in the neighborhood.

Growing up during the Second World War period, the twins were basically reared by a household of women. Their father was on the run from the law, having refused to join up for military service. So Ronnie and Reggie's formative years were strongly influenced by their mother Violet, her two sisters, and their grandmother. Violet's love, almost a kind of "smother care" gave the twins a sense of almost superhuman invincibility. She accepted everything they did, destroying their ability to judge right from wrong.

Although Reggie loved the company of others, Ronnie was a bit of a loner and spent a lot of time on his own, or in the company of his Alsatian dog, Freda, roaming across the bombed out sites and blighted landscape of the East End. By the age of twelve they were both attending Daniel Street School, where Reggie excelled in English and Ronnie's forte was general knowledge. Three times a week, their father would take them to the Robert Browning Youth Club for boxing lessons.

When they reached fifteen and left school, they worked in the Billingsgate Fish Market, the biggest in Europe, for six months. This was to be the longest legitimate employment they ever had. Reggie trained as a salesman, and Ronnie worked as an "empty boy," scouring the market each day, collected empty fish boxes for his employer. They also worked on the weekends, helping out their Granddad Kray on his stall in Petticoat Lane.

On one occasion, a traveling fairground came to Bethnal Green and the twins fought each other in an exhibition match at one of the boxing booth stalls. They collected some money for their efforts, and afterwards considered themselves as professional boxers.

In 1948, Reggie was the Schoolboy Boxing Champion of Hackney and went on to become the London Schoolboy Champion, as well as getting to the finals in the Great Britain Schoolboys event. Ronnie also achieved similar accolades within junior boxing levels. Charlie, their brother recalled: "As boxers they were quite different from each other. Reggie was cool, cautious with plenty of skill; most importantly, he always listened to advice. Ronnie was quite the opposite — he would go in boots and all, and never hold back, until he dropped."

They seemed to attract trouble and, from an early age, loved to scrap and fight with anybody. It was customary for gang differences to be settled with fists, boots, knives and various other weapons. They were the toughest in any of the local teenage gangs and managed to reach the age of seventeen before they had a serious run in with the law. Then, a boy who had been badly mauled in a gang fight outside a dance hall in Hackney testified against them. But at that moment, with a foretaste of things to come, their trial was dismissed for lack of evidence. Somebody had got to the witnesses.

By this time, they were boxing professionally and were quite successful; Ronnie had six bouts arranged and won four of them, and Reggie won all of the six fights in which he competed.

On March 2nd, 1952, they were called up for National Service. This was a two-year mandatory military duty that all fit men over the age of eighteen were required to complete in Britain. They reported to Waterloo Barracks at the Tower of London and were assigned to the Royal Fusiliers

The twins did not take kindly to the military and after an altercation with one of their training sergeants, they beat him up and absconded back to Vallance Road. The police arrested them the next day and they were returned to their regiment for punishment.

For the next two years, they were either on the run from the Army or serving time in military prisons. Sentenced on one occasion to nine months at Shepton Mallet Military Prison, they met up with a whole new group of men who shared a disrespect for any kind of discipline. One of this group was a man whose path they would cross repeatedly in the years ahead; a man who would come to run his own gang in the south of London, surprisingly enough in conjunction with his own brother. In due course, into his gang would come a man who was to have a profound impact on the future of the twins.


Lords of the Manor

A year after they were dishonorably discharged from the Army, the twins went into their first business venture. With a loan from elder brother Charlie, they assumed the title to a lease on a fourteen-table billiard hall, which had been converted from an old movie theatre called The Regal in Eric Street, off the Mile End Road in Bethnal Green.

The hall was open day and nights, and soon became a regular meeting haunt for a disparate group of people. Men fresh out of prison, old friends the twins had known in the Army, some of the local criminals and tough teenage boys from the Mile End looking for some excitement. Ronnie began to develop an image he had dreamed of over the years. He started to dress gangster-style, double-breasted, wide shouldered suits, large rings and heavy bracelet watches. He had his own chair and liked to sit, facing the door, watching the arrivals. He loved the atmosphere, and as the table lights flickered on he would hand out cigarettes to people and say, "Smoke up. There's not enough smoke in here."

Some nights, the twins would invite a group of their hangers-on to drink with them. They would go to a crowded, noisy pub, never knowing what the evening would bring.

One thing was for certain. At some stage it would involve brawling and fighting.

The twins loved to mix it with anyone at any time. Although not particularly big men, standing about five-ten and weighing under one hundred seventy pounds, they were extremely skilled fighters, and in the several hundred bar brawls, woundings, and punch-ups they were involved in, they never seemed to come off second best. They both were abnormally tough, strong in the arms and shoulders and precise in the use of their fists as weapons. They seemed to exist on little or no sleep. Ronnie, on one occasion, reputedly drank fifty-five bottles of beer in one night, and yet the next day, carried on as normal.

Reggie developed a trademark "sucker punch." He practiced it for hours on a punch bag. He would offer a man a cigarette with his right hand and as the man was accepting it into his mouth, Reggie would slug him with a cruel left hook. He broke many jaws. An open jaw fractures easily.

The twins very quickly learned the importance of leadership and discipline. From the start, Ronnie understood the significance of reliable information and intelligence gathering, He gathered about him a group of young boys he used to meet in a cafe in the Bethnal Green Road. He called them "my little information service" and used them extensively to watch houses, clubs or to follow someone and then report back. He also started to develop a taste for them in a different way.

Although Reggie was an effective fighter and organizer, Ronnie seemed more and more to grasp the initiative. After one prolonged briefing with a group of their followers, one of them said, "Christ, Ron. You're just like a bloody colonel."

The name stuck.

Although short sighted and a mediocre shot, Ronnie was obsessed with firearms, and stored a collection of these, along with bayonets, cavalry sabers and Ghurkha knives, under the floorboards at 178 Vallance Road. Reggie was the more practical and opportunistic one and saw the billiard hall for what it could truly be: a venue, safe and protected from the police, where local villains could meet freely and exchange ideas and information without fear of interference from the law. Soon the hall was being used to store stolen goods and acting as a conduit for local fences. Always, a good percentage went to the twins.

At this time, the twins were basically outsiders in the criminal underworld of the East End. Most of the serious "guv'nors" or provincial crime barons ignored them. Then three brothers, dockers, who ruled the local area sent the twins an invitation for a Sunday morning drink at a pub in the Mile End Road. It was common knowledge that this was "D" day and the chips were down.

On that morning, the twins wandered down to the pub. At ten minutes past high noon, they walked into the private bar where three very large men were quietly drinking. The twins walked in, closed the door and the fight began. When it ended, the pub manager decided to check and see if the twins had learned their lesson. There was blood and broken glass everywhere; two of the dockers were stretched out unconscious on the floor, and Ronnie had to be dragged off the third one before he killed him.

Ronnie had a surprisingly simple life. He lived at his parents' home in Vallance Road, where his doting mother cared for his wants. Apart from running the billiard hall and getting into the odd fight, he seemed to have no other interests. He couldn't drive, didn't know how to thieve and had no understanding of betting or gambling. He had no urge for grand living. His only weakness was for young boys. He had no interest in women, but with boys he could be unexpectedly sentimental and gentle. But he was wary of being known as a homosexual and rarely, if ever, took a boy out on the town.

What he really wanted was fame and recognition. All his life, he had lived a "Walter Mitty" existence, peopled with gangsters, boxers, and military heroes. Now that he was the "Colonel," he was achieving his ambition. He had his haircut and his nails manicured at home. A masseur called to give him personal treatment every morning. He practiced yoga each day, and at one time lived on a diet of raw eggs because he believed they helped to strengthen the body and make it good for sex. He became obsessively cautious about the police and became convinced his telephone was tapped. He would sleep at night with a gun under his pillow and the light left on.

More and more Reggie slipped into the dark and brooding shadow of Ronnie. He adopted Ronnie's dress habits; he would match his violence when required, but he hankered for what he called "the good life." Possession, respect, a wife -- the very things that were furthest from Ronnie's thoughts.

By 1956, their twenty-second year, the twins were a formidable pair. Ronnie would garnish their reputation for violence and Reggie would promote it for all it was worth. But at the end of the day, they both were there if a serious fight presented itself.

Soon, the twins were generating cash by "poncing" off local villains. "Poncing" in the East End vernacular, was extorting a share of illegal profits resulting from thieving and robbery committed on their patch.

Illegal bookmaking and gambling dens also became a major potential source of corruption. Thieves, anxious to off-load their spoils, would make the twins their first contact point. There were also the old-fashioned cockney con tricks to be worked. They became experts at working the "tweedle" and "jargon" scams which involved manipulating paste rings and jewelery and screwing victims out of their money before they discovered their mistakes. But the twins were after more than the small time stuff. At some stage in this period of their lives, they both agreed that they were hungering for something else. They wanted to be the barons of crime, rather than the serfs.


Going Away

London has always had criminals. The biggest city in Britain, it acted as a magnet, drawing into its fold those anxious to make money without the respectable inconvenience of working for it. In the early part of the twentieth century, the Odessian and Bessarabian gangs preyed on Russian immigrants in the Whitechapel quarter of the East End. The Blind Beggar Gang, a team of skilled pick-pockets, operated out of a public house that would become famous in later years as the site of a gangland shooting. Street thugs formed into groups and called themselves "The Titanics" or "The Hoxton Mob" or "The Vendetta Mob." The Jamaican Eddie Mannings, and a Japanese called Sess Miyakawa rang drug rings in the early 1920's.

The first of the British gangs that had any real international connections were the Sabinis, led by Charles "Darby" Sabini. They operated around the racecourses of South England and also ran protection rackets with clubs as well as operating highly organized robbery teams. The Sabinis flourished for almost twenty years, often importing Sicilian criminals to help them in their skirmishes with other groups such as the Elephant and Castle Mob. After the Second World War, the two major gang leaders in London and South England were Billy Hill and Jack "Spot" Comer.

They had formed an alliance and liked to refer to themselves as "the kings of the underworld." And then, for some reason they fell out. Spot was attacked in Soho and had his faced slashed. He called on the twins to back him against Billy Hill and his gang. The twins accepted the invitation and made it known they were supporting him.

Off and on over the next twelve months, the two groups fronted up to each other, but full-scale warfare never erupted; then on a warm May night in 1956, Jack Spot was ambushed outside his apartment in Bayswater, West London. Two tough young thugs, Frankie Fraser and Alf Warren, attacked him and again his face was slashed. That was it for Jack Spot. He called it quits, retired and bought a furniture store. Billy Hill also retired and bought a villa in southern Spain.

The twins had been almost ready to graduate into the big time, but without Spot to guide them they were lost in the intricacies of serious criminal administration. The vacuum created by the resignations of Spot and Hill was filled by a number of criminal gangs, the most important being a group of Italians, based in a social club in the Clerkenwell Road. Rumors spread that some of these men were after the twins to settle old scores resulting from the Hill-Comer altercation.

One night, the twins and a group of their gang drove to this address. Ronnie stormed into the club and, after a brief dispute with a group of men at the bar, he drew out a Mauser pistol and fired three shots. He hit no one, and no one attempted to stop him as he walked back out to the group waiting for him in a truck parked outside.

Ronnie left the social club in a glow. This was what being a gangster was all about. If Spot and Hill could rule the London underworld with gangsters like the Italians, he and Reggie would be unstoppable. Now as Ronnie said, "We weren't playing kid's games any more."

Things began to change, subtly within their group. The kids' games were over. There would still be plenty of partying and good times, but now they no longer had gang fights just for the hell of it. Acts would require reason. Everything had to have a purpose.

The billiard hall became more a business venue than a party place. Ronnie spent more time thinking about what he called the "politics' of crime." Genuine criminals and villains began to replace the young tearaways that had formed the nucleus of the gang. These new men banded together into what became known as "The Firm" and, over the years to come, would consist of Ronnie and Reggie, their cousin Ronnie Hart, and men such as Albert Donoghue, Ian Barrie, Pat Connolly, Big Tommy Brown, also known as "The Bear", Connie Whithead, Dave Simmonds, Nobby Clarke, Sammy Lederman, Scotch Jack Dickson, John Barry, Ronnie Bender, and the Greek brothers, Tony and Chris Lambrianou. Charlie Kray did not play much of a part in the gang, and was often left out of many of their enterprises. At some stage late in the 1950's, a man became attached to the Firm, working small time on the fringes, never strictly "made" into the group. He was balding, and always wore a hat, and one day he would come to haunt the twins.

Now, for the first time in their lives, the twins were making some real money. Reggie acquired his first American car and Ronnie was openly admitting his homosexuality. By the end of 1956, the twins controlled an area from Bethnal Green east to Mile End, Stepney and Bow, and north to Hackney and Walthamstow. Within this area of over fourteen square miles, every thief, gambling den, most of the pubs and many business paid their dues to the Krays. They were becoming known as "the most dangerous mob in London."

In the autumn of 1956, Ronnie shot someone for the first time.

A car dealer in Bethnal Green Road was under the "protection" of the twins. He sold a car to a dockworker from South London. When the man returned the car, complaining it burned oil, the dealer refused to refund the purchase price. The irate buyer threatened to return the next day with his friends from over the water (the River Thames). The dealer rang Ronnie who agreed to deal with the matter. The next day the man did return, but he came alone. He was talking to the car dealer when Ronnie stormed into the office and in a brief struggle, fired his Luger pistol, shooting the man in the leg.

Taken to Bancroft Road Hospital, the man identified Ronnie as the man who had shot him. The next day, a man was brought to the hospital and the victim identified his attacker. Except when the police charged Ronald Kray with GBH (grievous bodily harm), the man swore he was not Ronnie but Reggie, and produced his driving license to prove it. His alibi for the time of the shooting was so strong, the embarrassed police at Arbour Square station had to release him. Then using the services of "Red Face" Tommy Plumley, an East End fixer of great renown, all the other parties involved were sworn to secrecy, and the victim was rewarded with a substantial cash settlement for his pain and suffering.

After the shooting, Ronnie seemed a bit like Superman, according to one of his gang. It appeared that there was nothing he couldn't do and get away with.

But tension between the twins increased dramatically after the affair with the shooting of the docker. Although Ronnie couldn't stop boasting of his confrontation, Reggie's attitude was the opposite. At times he seem horrified at Ronnie's actions. "You must be raving mad," he would shout at his brother. "You shoot a man, then leave it to me to clear up the mess. One day you'll get us hanged." His brother invariably replied something along the lines of, "You couldn't shoot a man if you tried. You haven't got the guts of a flea."

By the middle of 1956, the twins at last had a foothold in the West End of London. A friend of theirs, Billie Jones, had taken over a drinking club called The Stragglers, situated off Cambridge Circus in Soho. Although it was a good club, it also attracted a lot of undesirables and, consequently, was a popular place for fights. These were unwelcome by the owners, as they, in turn, also attracted the law. An associate of Jones, called Bobby Ramsey, suggested calling in the twins as partners to handle the troublemakers. Reggie and Ronnie were delighted to be partners and they soon put an end to the trouble. Then some real problems developed.

Jones got into an argument with a thug called Charlie who was part of a gang called The Watney Streeters, descendants of the old-time Watney Street gang who had always been enemies of the villains of Bethnal Green.

They were mainly dockworkers, who apart from their reputation as brawlers, thieved off the docks they worked. Jimmy Fuller was their leader and many were related by marriage. They were all thieves and renowned for their drinking capabilities.

Jones came off the worst in the fight. Ramsey, the boxer, retaliated by beating up Charlie the next night. Two nights after that, Charlie and a bunch of thugs corner Ramsey in an East End pub called The Artichoke, beat and kicked him and left him on the street, badly worked over.

Although Ramsey recovered, Ronnie felt he now had to become involved because of his relationship with both Jones and Ramsey. He laid careful plans, using his secret service of small boys to up-date him on the movements of his victims. Two weeks after Ramsey was beaten, Ronnie, Reggie and a dozen men descended on a pub called the Britannia in Stepney where Charlie and his friends were drinking. However, they had learned of the ambush and as Ronnie and his mob came in through the front door, the intended victims disappeared through the back door. The only one left in the pub was someone called Terry Martin, who Ramsey believed had been one of his attackers. He was dragged outside and beaten almost to death.

Later that night, Ramsey and Ronnie were stopped by a police patrol car, as they were driving through Stepney in Ramsey's black Buick. Eventually both brothers were tried for assault on Martin, and although Reggie was acquitted, Ronnie took the fall and went off to prison. On a miserable, wet Friday, November 5th, 1956, he entered Wandsworth Prison to start a three-year sentence. Things would never been quite the same after this day for Ronnie.


In and Out

In the East End of London anyone serving a prison sentence is simply referred to as an "away." Any close friend of the Krays who had been locked up had always been looked after. The brothers would organize regular visits and do what they could to help the prisoner's family. The professional prisoners in Wandsworth had heard about "The Colonel" and the way the Krays looked after their friends. They knew he had a brother outside who still commanded much power and could be of great help to men on release.

Prison life adjusted smoothly for Ronnie. In theory all men are equal in prison. In practice, it varies greatly according to the distribution of the currency that governs the prisoners' lives. In all prisons, everywhere, the currency is tobacco. Reggie soon had manipulated the currency at Wandsworth to benefit his brother. Once Ronnie had all the tobacco he needed, he began to use it to isolate himself from the rest of the prison society. He manipulated the work system and supplemented his prison diet with private supplies bought from the canteen.

And so, Ronnie started his jail sentence to suit his requirements, rather than that of the penal system that had sent him there. His life behind bars became an extension of his other life. He had his followers and sycophants to flock around him and listen to his philosophy on the masterminding of crime. He had his servants to look after his needs, and he had his periods of silence and meditation when he was not to be disturbed.

Back on the streets, Reggie began life without his brother. He became more relaxed and confident outside of his brother's shadow. Now that he was head of the "Firm," he came into his own, and started showing he was a leader and an earner. He decided that they needed a new base, and started looking for a suitable site. The billiard hall was under threat in any case, as the area was to be redeveloped into blocks of city funded apartments or housing projects.

After a long and thorough search of his "manor," he settled on an empty shop, which was located in Bow Road about two miles east of the family home in Bethnal Green. It was derelict, but it was well located and the rent was cheap. Reggie and two of his crew did all of the redecorating and, a few months after Ronnie walked into Wandsworth Prison, Reggie was hosting the opening night on the new base —"the finest drinking club the East End's ever known."

Reggie built a gym above the clubrooms and Henry Cooper, the famous British boxer, came along and officially opened the premises. It soon developed a reputation and started to attract celebrities —show business personalities, artists, a playboy or two. To them is was authentic East End atmosphere. To Reggie, they were the start of a love affair he would develop over the years with the rich and famous. Although the club was all Reggie's, his brother was not forgotten. He called it The Double R.

The club was a success and Reggie started to make money as a legitimate businessman, although he did not forsake his criminal activities. Instead he moved through these more cautiously. He was still cunning and manipulative and was prepared to settle old scores.

A few months after Ronnie went to prison, a club owned by the Martin family, in Poplar near The Isle of Dogs, was burned to the ground. At the time, Reggie and a friend, who just happened to be a policeman, were fishing in Suffolk. He heard about an enemy who was shopping around for a gun and visited the dealer who subsequently sold the gun to the man. When the enemy fired the gun at Reggie one night outside The Double R, it exploded and blew away most of his hand.

Elder brother Charlie came back into Reggie's life. Without Ronnie around, Charlie and Reggie seemed to relate to each other in a more equitable way. Charlie was an easygoing sort of man and he and his wife Dolly fitted in well with the atmosphere of The Double R. They mixed and mingled comfortably with the stars that were now visiting in increasing numbers, particularly women such as Jackie Collins, Sybil Burton and Barbara Windsor.

Charlie was a shrewd businessman. He convinced Reggie to expand and they bought another drinking club in Stratford and developed a used car lot on some spare land next to the billiard hall in Eric Street. Although gambling was illegal and horse betting could only take place at recognized racetracks, they set up The Wellington Way Club, as an illicit gambling venue. It became their biggest money-spinner by far. What made the place particularly interesting was that it was situated in a house they had rented right next to the car park of Bow Street Police Station.

After six months in Wandsworth Prison, Ronnie was transferred to Camp Hill on the Isle of Wight, about one hundred miles southwest of London. This was not to Ronnie's liking. Here, he had no power, no tobacco currency clout and seemed a continent away from his friends and contacts back in the East End. Slowly he began to change. He withdrew into himself and began to believe that he was the target of unknown assailants. He spent most of his time in his cell, and the wardens, worried that he might harm himself, kept him under constant observation. This only made him more nervous.

In due course, he was moved back across to the mainland and sent to Winchester Gaol and transferred into the psychiatric wing for observation. He was diagnosed as having "prison psychosis," which covered any kind of mental disorder brought on by confinement, and was heavily sedated. It seemed that the treatment was working and he would recover, and then on Christmas Day, 1957, Aunt Rose died after a long battle with leukemia. Ronnie learned of the news two days later and went berserk. He had to be placed in a straightjacket for his own safety.

On the morning of December 28th, Violet Kray received an official telegram from the governor of Winchester Gaol:

"Your son Ronald Kray is certified insane."

On February 20th 1958, Ronnie was removed from Winchester and driven by ambulance back towards London. He was taken to Long Grove Hospital, situated in the peaceful Surrey countryside. A Victorian lunatic asylum, located just a mile from Epsom, it was one of many erected in the late nineteenth century to accommodate the growing numbers of mentally disturbed people from the slums of London.

After analyzing and examining him, the doctors decided he was "A simple man of low intelligence, poorly in touch with the outside world." He had been the victim of a schizophrenic breakdown and although he could never be cured, drugs would make his life easier. The experts however were not quite on the ball in diagnosing Ronnie.

He undoubtedly was schizophrenic, but what they missed was the fact that his illness also fell into a category that was often very difficult to spot. He was a paranoid schizophrenic. In this version, the patient, although apparently outwardly normal, is driven inwardly by his obsessions. The classic symptoms — delusions of grandeur, extreme feelings of persecution, self-protection phobia and identification with historical figures — were apparent in Ronnie's mental instability, but without a thorough background check on their patient, the doctors came to miss this and underestimated the seriousness of his illness.

Although the doctors noticed an improvement in Ronnie's condition, they decided he should stay at Long Grove and by the end of May he was desperate to escape. Reggie was just the man to come up with the perfect plan.

Sundays were the main visiting day, and on one of these in June, Reggie accompanied by a friend, George Osborne, walked into the visiting room at the hospital. Reggie was wearing a fawn raincoat and Ronnie was there to greet them, smartly dressed in a blue suit and maroon colored tie. Although there was always a male nurse on duty during visiting hours, Ronnie did nothing to arouse his concern. He and his brother and Osborne sat chatting until afternoon tea was ready. This was prepared in a kitchen along a corridor from the visiting room, and as patients were not allowed to leave the room, guests were allowed to collect it.

The twin in the fawn raincoat left the room and disappeared in the direction of the kitchen. About twenty minutes later, the nurse realized that the guest had not returned and went to check with Ronnie and the other guest. Of course it wasn't Ronnie sitting there, but Reggie. He and his brother had agreed to wear identical clothes, and Ronnie had flown the coop by now and was on his way to London. The police were called and questioned Reggie and Osborne for over an hour, but as usual were helpless in the face of the intractable fact, that yet again, the twins had used their identities to fool the authorities. As Reggie said to an officer, "It's not as if we actually done anything. We've been sitting here waiting for a cup of tea that never came."


He's My Brother

Suffolk is a county in the southeast of England. A generally flat, low-lying area, its primary economic activity is agriculture. About forty miles to the north east of London, is the market town of Sudbury. Lying between here and the site of Borley Rectory on the River Stour, once the most haunted house in England, was a farm that belonged to a friend of Reggie.

Two weeks before Ronnie walked out of the hospital, Reggie had towed a caravan here and hidden it in a wood on the farm property. Nearly a week after the escape, Ronnie left his hiding place in Walthamstow, North London, and Reggie drove him to the hideout. A young villain called Teddy was to stay with Ronnie, and act as his minder, bodyguard and keeper. They needed to stay under cover at least six weeks. Under prison regulations, any certified prisoner who remained at liberty as long as that, had to be re-certified on recapture. All Ronnie had to do was stay out of trouble and then give himself up in due course, when he could complete his sentence and be released within a year, at the most.

Ronnie could not settle in the countryside and insisted on trips back into the East End. Often he would go to The Double R and spend the evening drinking and partying with his friends. He would disguise himself and walk up and down the Whitechapel Road, deliberately seeking out policemen to walk past, knowing they were on the lookout for him. On one occasion he dressed in one of Reggie's suits and went drinking in a pub his brother often used.

"Evening, Reg. Any news of Ron?" people would ask him.

"No. Why? Have you seen him lately?" Ronnie would reply.

"We heard he's in town. Wish him luck if you see him."

But more and more he was getting moody and paranoid about people, and on one occasion offered to kill a troublesome neighbour for the man who owned the farm where he was hiding. The farmer, concerned about Ronnie's mood swings and obvious homicidal attitudes, organized for Ronnie to visit a psychiatrist he knew in Harley Street. After the visit, the doctor rang his friend, the farmer, and said, "I don't know who your friend is, but he's clearly homicidal. He shows all the signs of advanced paranoid schizophrenia. Get him to a hospital before something happens."

Then one day the police came visiting the farm checking on another escaped prisoner, one much more famous than Ronnie, Alfred Hinds. A career criminal, with an IQ of 150, he was always breaking out of prison. The farmer was able to convince the police that Hinds was nowhere near his farm, but Ronnie who had been hiding in the farmhouse had been dreading the police for weeks. He decided he must get away and would kill anyone who tried to stop him.

Reggie came for him and brought him back to London where he stayed with him in an apartment off the Bayswater Road. A doctor was called in to treat Ronnie who had deteriorated and was now in a dreadful state. He was drinking two bottles of gin a day, and this, plus his tranquillising drugs, had reduced him to a mental wreck.

After one particularly harrowing experience, involving a visit in disguise to Maidstone Gaol to visit an old friend, Ronnie attempted suicide. A family conference was called and the Krays made a decision that must have torn them apart. Against all that they believed in, their inviolable code of not co-operating or "grassing" to the law, they contacted Scotland Yard and arranged for the police to call the next morning at 2 a.m. to collect Ronnie. When they arrived, Ronnie went quietly without a glance at his family.

By a strange twist of fate, the original plan behind the escape now seemed to work. After a brief spell back at Long Grove, he was diagnosed fit to finish his prison sentence and in the spring of 1959, he was released from Wandsworth Gaol.

Reggie and Charlie picked him up and he was returned to the safety of Vallance Road. After further hospital treatment, he seemed to have passed out of the realm of madness into a border state of normality. He had become, however a very different man. He was moodier and much more erratic now, and as well as being suspicious of everyone, had become even more frightening, physically. His time in prison, the mental hospital and on the run had transposed his appearance. He was no longer an identical twin. His features had become much coarser, his neck and jaw line altered; the flesh around his eyes tightened in. He had turned into a monster.

Back at Vallance Road, Ronnie spent most of his time huddled next to the fire. Some weekends he would visit a farm in Wiltshire with a boyhood friend, Checker Berry, and lose himself in the countryside atmosphere, drinking and eating in a village pub, horse riding across meadows and wooded slopes. Violet was thrilled to have her boys back. Ronnie slept in the big back bedroom and Reggie used the smaller room off the second floor landing.

Ronnie started trying to get back into the business, but was more of an embarrassment than a help, threatening violence and demanding protection money from a gambling club that was part owned by Reggie. A meeting with the Italians over some delicate profit sharing details was abandoned after Ronnie stormed out of the meeting, cursing and harassing the other party.

Reggie in despair talked to an old friend and asked him, "What can I do about Ron? He's ruining us. I know we should drop him. But how can I? He's my brother and he's mad."

The twins and their differences in running the "Firm" became more apparent as Ronnie slowly, but surely, asserted himself. Reggie believed strongly in capitalising on their legitimate business contacts, Ronnie was all for rampaging through crime like the proverbial bull-in-a-china-shop.

A few months after Ronnie came back, there was a full-scale bar fight in The Hospital Tavern between the "Firm" and the Watney Street gang. The next day the newspapers were calling it the worst gang fight in the East End for years.

More and more Ronnie was dreaming of a gangland federation in London, uniting all of the scattered criminal groups under one command with himself as the alliance head. But as he planned and schemed, and created more opportunities to involve violence and terrorism on a grand scale, all the good work Reggie had done over the past three years was slowly crumbling around them. The billiard hall, their first headquarters closed down, under demolition orders from the local council. The income from The Double R and the gambling club in Wellington Way was barely covering the expenses of the twins.

In the summer of 1959, a man in London called Daniel Shay was living a prosperous life. He owned a car dealership and lived with his wife in an expensive apartment in Edgware. Although he was not a villain in the strict sense of the word, he was certainly "bent" with at least thirteen convictions, mainly for fraud. He met up with Ronnie and began boasting of his relationship with the Krays. On several occasions Ronnie borrowed money from him and somehow never got around to repaying it. Shay saw the twins for what they were, and perhaps a little of their bravado rubbed off on him.

Towards the end of Edgware Road, as it runs into the rich and affluent suburb of Hampstead, was a shop called Swiss Travel Goods. It was owned and run by a Pole called Murray Podro. Shay called in here one day in February 1960, and purchased an expensive briefcase, promising to return later to pay for it.

A few days later, Shay returned to the shop accompanied by the twins. For some obscure reason, he decided to try and extort Podro, and demanded a large sum of money after threatening to physically attack the shopkeeper. After he and the twins left, Podro called the police and reported the incident. When Shay returned two days later, hoping to collect the money, Reggie accompanied him. They were both arrested. After a trial at the Old Bailey, Shay went to prison for three years for trying to operate a protection racket, and Reggie was sentenced to eighteen months. Surprisingly, Ronnie was never mentioned in the case.

With Reggie out of action, Ronnie was in his element. Never mind that his ineptitude was costing the twins money. He was finally the sole boss of the "Firm." Arms were stockpiled at "Fort Vallance" and he bothered himself organizing and directing the skirmishes and minor conflicts that had always obsessed him. What use was a Colonel without troops and what use were troops without wars to fight? Living at home with Violet, planning his tactical strategies, free from any harassment from Reggie, or even Charlie who now left him completely alone, Ronnie would no doubt have traversed from one pub brawl to another. And then in autumn, he met Peter Rachman.


Good Times Rolling

Peter Rachman became known eventually, as London and Britain's most notorious landlord. He acquired many slum properties in the north London suburbs, particularly around the Notting Hill area, which in those days did not have the hip and trendy image portrayed today in movies and television. His policy was to acquire tenanted buildings, hike up the rents forcing out immigrant families, and then bring in prostitutes and drug dealers who could afford to pay him. He used a team of strong-arm toughs to intimidate and guarantee he achieved his objectives.

Ronnie had learned about Rachman and was interested in finding out if he could milk him. One night, Ronnie and a bunch of his pals, crashed a party Rachman was giving in Soho. After a bit of minor terrorism, Rachman agreed to pay protection money to Ronnie to prevent "trouble" arising among his rent collectors and enforcers. Rachman paid his first instalment to Ronnie by a cheque, which bounced, and then he disappeared when Ronnie came searching for him. Sure enough, just as The Colonel had predicted, trouble began in Notting Hill

Rachman's rent collectors were beaten up and his enforcers became victims of worse enforcers. As Reggie once commented, "His rent collectors were big, but our boys were bigger." His empire was in danger of disintegrating. Rachman was a clever man, who well understood the mentality of someone like Ronnie. He realised that once he started paying protection, it would never stop. He needed to offer a big carrot, one that would get him off the hook for good.

Illegal gambling had always been the lodestone to organized crime in London. Earlier crime bosses such as Billy Hill and Jack Spot had generated much of their income from illegal gambling clubs. By the mid 1950's, gambling fever was in full swing in London and it was turning into a major industry. The British Parliament was on the verge of legalising gambling in the mistaken belief that it would drive away the criminals. It would have the opposite effect in that with gambling legalized, the underworld would virtually be legalized as well. London would become the Las Vegas of Europe, and any self-respecting gangster knew what went on in Vegas.

Rachman was connected to people who were aware of a man called Stefan de Faye. He owned a gaming club called Esmeralda's Barn in Wilton Place, which was a fashionable street running off Knightsbridge. One of the most exclusive areas in London, it houses Harrods and Harvey Nicholson, two of the premier department stores in the world, and just down the road is Buckingham Palace.

At a meeting attended by the twins (Reggie was out on bail after nine months awaiting a review of his case) and a friend of theirs called Leslie Payne, de Faye agreed to sell his shareholding for cash, but decided to remain as a director and manager running the club for the Krays.

Payne had become an important advisor to Ronnie, while his brother had been away in prison. At the time he met up with Ronnie, Payne was a bankrupt businessman who had seen fourteen of his companies disappear into liquidation. He saw in Ronnie opportunities to rebuild his commercial career. He was a clever man, with a sharp brain, and also a great sense of humour. Married to a very pretty wife, he lived with her and his two children in Dulwich, south east London. As Ronnie came to rely more and more upon him, he acquired the nickname "Payne the Brain."

Esmeralda's Barn was a gold mine for the twins. One of the first gaming clubs to open after the new Gaming Act came into force, it had the best croupiers and workers in town. It had a bar and a good restaurant and the staff was well trained to care for the needs of their customers. Soon, Payne had restructured the legal ownership of the club. The executive manager was given a 50% stake in the business and the twins and Payne owned the balance.

The twins would earn close to one hundred thousand pounds a year from their shareholding, for doing absolutely nothing. This was a huge amount of money at the time when the average wage was less than one thousand pounds a year. Just before Christmas, Reggie's appeal failed, and he went back to prison for six months. Ronnie had the club to himself.

He revelled in the opportunity to be the boss. Soon he was running up huge bills as he accepted markers that bounced. The manager, in desperation, offered he and his brother one thousand pounds each week just to stay away. Ronnie refused. Eventually the manager resigned and went off to start his own club, which became one of the top four in London. Ronnie mixed with a class of people he had never known before. They introduced him to celebrities, invited him into their homes, and even dined him at The House of Lords. He became a playboy gangster, even going so far as moving into an apartment on the King's Road in Chelsea, which he had assumed in payment for a gambling debt. It was truly the good life for a time.

He now made no bones about his homosexuality. His preference was for youngish men, with long eyelashes and a sense of innocence about them. He paid them well and treated them well, and was proud to insist that he held no prejudices; he would relate with Arabs, Chinese, Negroes or Anglo-Saxons. More and more he needed someone to sleep with to help him combat his growing fear of the dark and being alone at night.

But his world was slowly slipping out of control. His heavy drinking mixed with the drugs he was taking, such as Stematol, did not help and life seemed just as hopeless as it was after his Aunt Rose died.

Reggie came back from Wandsworth prison, but things were changed now, for a different reason. He had fallen in love. He was twenty-seven, and was smitten with a dark haired, pert, innocent young girl of sixteen. Her name was France Shea. She would offer Reggie the opportunity to make a different life. He could work towards those things that had so tantalisingly evaded him for so long- a home, a family and a normal lifestyle.

Her father had run The Regency Club in Stoke Newington, where the twins had an interest, and Reggie had met her here when he was free on bail. He went out with her a few times, but it was only when he was sent back to prison that he realised how deep his feelings for her had become. He wrote letters and sent poetry to her each day he was locked away. When eventually he was released, he couldn't wait to sweep up the Irish girl with long eyelashes, deep brown eyes and chestnut-coloured hair, and show her how much he loved her. She was his cockney princess.

Ronnie, who hated all women, except his mother and the memory of his Aunt Rose, saw Frances as a threat to his relationship with his brother. They rowed, repeatedly, with an intensity that no one could remember. But Reggie was determined to find happiness with Frances. In some respects he did. But their love affair was to be a torturous adventure that would take them through a maze of conflicts and on a roller-coaster of emotional ups and downs, before it ended in the tragedy that it was probably always fitted out for from the moment it began.


Big-Time Gangsters

Not long after Reggie was released from Wandsworth prison, he was arrested on a charge of housebreaking. The woman who had originally filed the charges failed to identify him in court and the case was dismissed; Reggie was awarded costs.

Then, he and Ronnie were charged with "loitering" with intent to steal parked cars in the Queensbridge Road, a main thoroughfare that connects Hackney to Bethnal Green. It was a ludicrous charge and Ronnie was determined to use it to expose what he perceived to be a vendetta against him and his brothers by the local police.

He hired a famous young female barrister, Nemone Lethbridge, to defend them, and used private detectives to check out the charges. Eventually eight witnesses came forward to provide a cast-iron alibi. Through contacts he had on a the local paper, Ronnie made sure the East End press carried their side of the story.

On May 8th 1961, the Marylebone Magistrates' Court dismissed the charges. A full-scale party was held at Esmeralda's Barn, where Ronnie proposed a toast to "British Justice." He had all the national press coverage he wanted. The Daily Express, one of Britain's leading newspapers, carried a long article about them. Ronnie felt he was untouchable.

Reggie proposed marriage to Frances in the autumn of 1961, but she turned him down. She felt she was too young to marry. One night, after the twins had one of their innumerable arguments, Ronnie decided he had finished with life "up West" and he moved into a caravan he owned which was parked on a plot of land in Vallance Road.

More and more, his time was devoted to planning and scheming through a nebulous itinerary of fantasies. Treasure hunting in the Congo; establishing an English version of Murder Incorporated; giving it all up and going off to work in a leper colony in Africa. He spent lengthy sessions with a lady clairvoyant, who confirmed that he was in fact the reincarnation of Attila the Hun; he would achieve greatness through violence and then die young.

Ronnie soon tired of his lifestyle in the caravan and moved into an apartment in a block of thirty, called Cedra Court, which was in Walthamstow, about five miles north of Vallance Road. He began building up "The Firm," adding to it many villains from outside of London. He found these men legitimate employment. Some were installed as managers in the clubs the Krays' owned or had interests in. Some were placed as bouncers in West End clubs that looked to the Krays for protection.

Reggie was working hard at this part of their business and by the end of 1962, their revenue from this source had doubled. The twins had developed such a reputation that often club owners approached them first, seeking their guarantee of cover. Soon, as well as the East End, the Firm was protecting clubs in Shepherd's Market, Mayfair, Soho, Chelsea and Knightsbridge.

They had a seemingly endless list of these businesses paying tribute to them. Benny's in Commercial Road; Dodgers in Brick Lane; in Whitechapel, the Green Dragon and next door to this The Little Dragon; The Two Aces; in Soho the Gigi Club, The New Life and The New Mill. The list went on and on. Every Friday, members of The Firm, Albert Donaghue, Ronnie Hart, Jack Dickson and Ian Barrie would make the rounds, collecting the cash for the twins. It was known as "the milk round."

Representatives from American Mafia families, as well as French and Corsican criminals, who were scoping out London as a potential market, were contacting Reggie early on in their initial market surveys. There was a seemingly endless list of opportunities being presented to the brothers.

By now the twins had set their sights on dominating the control of crime in the West End of London. What they had done so successfully for so long back in the East End, would work just as well in the rich and more vulnerable swinging London of the sixties. There was really nothing to stop them now. They seemed untouchable.

They had cultivated a myth that they had many senior police officers in their pocket; their recent successful actions against the law made them appear invincible; it was assumed to be very unwise to even contemplate giving evidence against them; and then there was their elaborate network of informants that kept them abreast of any activity that might threaten their security. Like politicians, gangsters are often perceived more for what they might do, than for the acts they actually perform. Ronnie loved to have people go in fear of him and his fellow criminals. The greater the rumours, the more evil the insinuations, the more he enjoyed it. He and Reggie were growing into a legend. The myth that surrounded them was good for business.

In the early part of 1962, the twins opened their latest club venture and called it The Kentucky. It was situated in Bow Road in Stepney, just across from the Empire Cinema. It was a plusher version of The Double R and designed to attract a smart, sophisticated clientele to the East End. Reggie was working around the clock putting deals together, and his relationship with Frances was being sorely tested. She objected strongly to the way Ronnie and his friends were seemingly taking over their lives. They agreed it might be better if they saw less of each other.

Leslie Payne was more and more becoming involved in the administration of The Firm. One of their great sources of income was a scam they ran called the "long firm" fraud.

It was in essence so simple, but yet so effective. Using a front man over whom they had control, they would set up a business. Open premises, originate lines of credit and a bank account and then begin to trade. Over a period of time they would create a good impression, pay their bills on time and do their banking by the book. Then, choosing the right moment, they would place large orders with their suppliers, who confident because of their credit history would deliver the goods. These would then be sold off in one mad day of sales, at any prices, because the goods had to go. The business would then close down and everyone would vanish, leaving unpaid bills, irate creditors and the police wondering what had happened.

If the manager were ever caught, he would accept his punishment and go to jail, knowing that the twins had deposited a fat sum in a Swiss bank account for him. In 1962, the Krays cleared over one hundred thousand pounds from this scam.

Payne, using an accountant who worked for him, set up a legitimate business operation that was to be used to cover shady deals that would involve not only domestic but international business frauds. By the summer of 1963, the twins' horizon was expanding dramatically. Their protection rackets were developing; they were looking at buying betting shops, tobacconists and restaurants and also a demolition business. Reggie was keen to acquire a security firm specialising in the protection and transportation of valuable goods. Who better to offer protection than the Krays?

The brothers decided to move their headquarters first from Esmeralda's Barn to a hotel in Seven Sisters Road in Stoke Newington. Ronnie felt the need for something more grand, and so they made move to take over The Cambridge Rooms, a big restaurant on the Kingston bypass, close to the Surrey stockbroker belt. Ronnie had a long talk to the manager and an agreement was reached allowing the twins to become partners in the business. The night they consummated their takeover of the management, they held a big party. Billy Daniels broadcast a message of congratulations over loudspeakers, direct from Hollywood, and Sonny Liston, then heavyweight champion of the world attended as guest of honour.

After a raucous evening of partying, Ronnie, very drunk, insisted on driving Liston home to his room at The Dorchester Hotel in west London. Liston said afterwards, that the thirty minutes he spent in that car were the scariest moments of his life, bar none.

Ronnie met up at some stage during these times, with Ernest Shinwell, the son of the famous Labour politician, Lord "Manny" Shinwell. Ernest was involved in trying to finance a deal to help build a new town in Nigeria near a place called Enugu. Although there was a lot of interest from the Nigerian government, and architects and contractors had all committed to the project, the raising of money to fund the venture was causing problems.

It was arranged to fly Ronnie out to Nigeria, where he was given a welcome more fitting to a diplomat or royalty, than a gangster from the East End. For three days he was wined, dined and given VIP treatment.

Back in London, Payne was setting the wheels in motion to set up holding companies to act as the vehicle for the fund raising. But the project was doomed from day one, and when Payne was detained in Nigeria while visiting to set up contacts, and a contractor demanded monies promised but outstanding, the whole thing collapsed. The twins had to bail Payne out and bring him back to England. Ronnie was devastated and felt betrayed by the loss of an opportunity that could have propelled him into the greatness he believed was his to achieve.

Ronnie descended more and more into his own pitiless world of shadows and imagined dangers. His capricious violence erupted more often. A boxer who insulted him had his face slashed open, requiring over seventy stitches to repair the damage. An old friend of the twins who offended one of their allies had his face branded in retaliation. Two men were hired to shoot another malcontent who had the nerve to pick a fight with an associate of the twins. They shot his brother by mistake. The man lost a leg.

Ronnie toyed with the idea of using castration as a suitable form of punishment on some of their enemies, but fortunately never found the opportunity to put his perverse conception into practice. More and more, Reggie was spending his valuable time trying to keep his brother from loosing his grip on reality and doing something seriously stupid.

By the end of 1963, in debt and with potential tax problems looming, Esmeralda's Bar was closed down. The twins had plenty of other business ventures to occupy their time and there were many potentially important deals in the offing. They would be crossing paths with some really big time gangsters from America, and there were to be many more famous and influential people to meet and socialise with over the next five years.

And there was one person in particular who would have a profound impact on them. Moving through the periphery of their beleaguered lifestyle was a small, neat and precise man, waiting and watching for an opportunity to strike them down. His time would come, early one morning in May, 1968.


Invincibles

On July 16th, 1964, The Daily Mirror, a leading British tabloid newspaper, went on sale with blazing headlines: THE PICTURE WE DARE NOT PRINT . Its copy stated that it had incriminating pictures of a leading politician, a well-known member of the House of Lords, taken with a gangster who was head of the biggest protection racket ever known in London. Six days later, unconcerned about British libel laws, the German magazine Stern, named the gangster as Ronnie Kray and the politician as Lord Boothby.

In a statement made via The Times newspaper, Lord Boothby fully refuted any close connection between himself and Ronnie, as well as the inference that there could have been homosexual relations between them. On August 7th, The Daily Mirror, carried a full and unreserved apology, and its parent company IPC paid Lord Boothby forty thousand pounds plus his legal costs. According to Boothby, Ronnie had contacted him on a number of occasions in connection with the Nigerian scheme, and when the Kray twin visited him, he agreed to the photograph being taken purely for promotional purposes.

Ronnie tried to cash in on the settlement; all he received was an apology, but no cash. Because of their problems over this affair, The Daily Mirror, backed off from a projected series that they were going to do on the gangland of London, and other newspapers wary of risking similar problems also decided to keep away from the Krays. As a result, the twins were to become immune to investigative reporting for the next three years. Whenever they did appear in the press, they were simply referred to as 'those well-known sporting brothers.....'

The Boothby affair raised particular problems within the hierarchy at Scotland Yard.

The Commissioner of police - Sir Joseph Simpson- denied publicly that there had been a police investigation of the Boothby-Kray affair. However since the beginning of 1964 the Kray twins and their gang had been under the scrutiny of Detective Chief Inspector Leonard Read, also know by his sobriquet-'Nipper.'

In early 1964, Read had been promoted and transferred from the Commercial Street Station to the West End Central Police Station. He had first come across the twins when he had been operating as a detective out of the Paddington district. They were an elusive duo to keep track of, but the more he learned about the local criminals the more important they seemed to be. A good copper makes his bones by using informants, but Read found it almost impossible to find anyone in the East End who was willing to talk about the Krays, and none with the suicidal tendency necessary to testify against them. He thought he had all his bases covered early in 1965.

On January 10th, the twins were arrested and charged with demanding money with menaces from one Hew McCowan. They were refused bail and the case went to court.

At its best the charge was questionable.

McCowan owned a club in the West End called the Hideaway. Located in Soho, it was visited one night by Teddy 'Mad' Smith, an associate of the twins, who tried to smash up the club and made threats against the owner.

Prior to this, McCowan had been to the police to complain that the Kray twins had been harassing him, demanding a half share in his business. Although it was a weak indictment, it was doubly important in that Read was putting a lot at stake in order to try and pin the twins down once and for all, and they were determined to make an example of the police in a final showdown. Using a team of private investigators to dig out all the information they could, the twins and their lawyers went to trial on February 28th 1965.

The jury failed to reach an agreement, and a re-trial was ordered. By then, the private detectives had unearthed evidence against McCowan that cast his character in disrepute. The twins' lawyers made the most of this in rebuttal, and the judge eventually stopped the trial, finding for the defendants.

That night the twins held their biggest party ever, and in an act of supreme irony, held it in McCowan's club, which they by now had purchased and renamed the El Morocco. They invited everyone they knew, including the police. 'Nipper' Read went along, if for no other reason than to see who else was there.

The greatest problem law enforcement faces when dealing with organized crime is trying to determine the social structure of criminal cells: who makes up the members and associates, the clients and friends. This mixture is constantly changing, making it difficult to track and record events and happenings.

Read chatted to Ronnie and, at some stage in the evening, had his photograph taken with him. Naturally this appeared in the newspapers the next day and created a storm of criticism. Letters of complaint flooded into Scotland Yard, most originated via the twins, who were carefully orchestrating a campaign to discredit the police. Although Read was exonerated in a subsequent inquiry, he was removed from the jurisdiction of the Kray investigation, promoted and sent off to help unravel the mystery of The Great Train Robbery, the biggest theft the world had ever known, which had taken place in August 1963.

Instructions went out immediately to all police units involved in organized crime investigations to exercise extreme caution and not to be seen associating with any known criminals. It seemed as if the twins were invulnerable. But it would be a pyrrhic victory, although four more years would pass before the law finally got it right.


Mobbed Up

Fifty-six days after they had been arrested, the twins were free again. Reggie and Frances were now back together and he had bought her an engagement ring. He obviously loved her, and she made herself fall in love with him. They decided to get married, and on April 20th, 1965, at St James's Church in Bethnal Green, they swore their vows at what was to be the East End wedding of the year.

David Bailey, the ubiquitous photographer of the swinging sixties, was there to record the images for posterity. It was a classic cockney wedding. The ostentation, the Rollers double parked in the grimy street, the guests dolled up in their "Sunday Best," the celebrities smiling and waving at the crowds. The photographer moved through his montage snapping away and recording for posterity the images — brother Charlie, good-looking, tall and sharp as a razor; his sleek wife Dolly stiffly smiling at the in-laws she hated; the Sheas — father Frank, son Frankie and mother Elsie in a black, velvet dress, which caused Reggie considerable distress, and which he never forgave her for wearing to his wedding.

Reggie looked nervously at the camera, often with a pained expression on his face as though he had just been caught with his fingers in the till, and Frances, her bouffant hair swept back off her cherub-like face looked the perfect bride. She stared into the lens with the innocence of youth, oblivious of everything but the magic moments that she would treasure for the rest of her short life. Toasting the bridal couple, Ronnie stared into space with an inscrutable expression, perhaps disbelieving or not comprehending the fact that his consanguineous link is broken, and that he has at last lost his twin half to someone else.

Reggie and Frances flew to Athens for their honeymoon. When they returned, he rented an expensive apartment off Lancaster Gate in the West End. But after a while, they both felt lonely away from their natural environment, and so Reggie found a place in Cedra Court, directly below the place where Ronnie was living.

Frances found life living in the shadow of Ronnie oppressive. Her husband was spending more time with his brother than with her. They still wined and dined at the best places and sometimes with noted people, such as Judy Garland and George Raft. But most times they socialised with other criminals and their partners. Her life was orderly but it was also ordered by Reggie. He would not let her work; she had a car, but couldn't drive it and Reggie would not let her have lessons. If she went shopping "up West" there was always someone from The Firm to accompany her and watch over her.

Eventually she broke under the strain and left Reggie to move back in with her parents.

They had been together eight weeks. That was all there was going to be.

For a while, the twins had an arrangement working in conjunction with some of the American Mafia dons. The previous year, Ronnie had a lengthy meeting at the London Hilton, in Park Lane, with Angelo Bruno, the head of the Philadelphia crime family. In due course they had meetings with Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo a powerful capo or crew boss who represented the Lucchese crime family, one of the powerful Mafia groups that dominated New York.

An apocryphal story has it, that on one of his visits, Corallo offered Charlie a "small" gift as a gesture of good will, from Thomas Lucchese. Charlie, in a patronising way told Corallo gifts weren't necessary, only friendship and co-operation. The mobster accordingly, went back to New York with a suitcase containing $50,000. The twins became good friends with Joseph Pagano, a top earning soldier in the Genovese crime group, possibly the biggest and most powerful of the five Mafia families that controlled organized crime in New York.

A colourful character, born in 1928, Pagano had a criminal record dating back to 1946. A friend and associate of Joseph Valachi, the first member to inform on the Mafia, Pagano had been inducted in the Genovese family in 1954. He was a major earner involved in drugs, loan-sharking, gambling and the control of legitimate businesses. His connection to the famous New York Copacabana Club and other such places was probably the way the twins initially connected to him.

They also met up and worked with Frank "Punchy" Illiano, who although connected to the Colombo crime family, eventually became one of the present day administration running the Genovese's.

With gambling now legalized in England, these people were looking for ways to move in and capitalise on the opportunities. One of the biggest was the running of "junkets," packaged air trips from major US eastern seaboard cities that would bring in hundreds of gamblers anxious to try out their luck in a different environment. The twins could smooth the way and provided the necessary services to make sure everything was well oiled.

On April 15th 1965, a raid took place on The Royal Bank of Canada in Montreal. Another occurred in May on a bank in Ontario. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of negotiable bonds were stolen.

Through their contacts in the American Mafia, the twins were offered a share of these, heavily discounted of course. In July, Payne flew to Montreal and purchased a part of this stolen shipment at a price 25% of their face value. The twins disposed of them in England, and began a lucrative traffic in these instruments, which in due course brought them into contact with Alan B. Cooper.

A thirty-six-year-old American businessman with interests in insurance and a private bank located off Wigmore Street, Marylebone, in the West End, he was a mystery man. He had rumoured links to gold smuggling rings in the Far East, arms dealing of a dubious nature and possible ties to American and British security agencies. The twins needed him to facilitate the registration of a particularly large batch of stolen Canadian government bonds. He agreed to help them if they would agree to be his ally. He was being strong-armed by a couple of gangsters from South London, and wanted Reggie and Ronnie to act as a buffer. They agreed.

The villains from south of the River Thames were Charlie and Eddie Richardson. The twins had first met up with them twelve years earlier, when they were all doing prison time in Shepton Mallett military prison in Somerset.

Cooper had many contacts in Europe, centred around Amsterdam, Zurich, Brussels and Geneva. Through them, he could offer the twins access into an international underworld. The brothers welcomed him with open arms.

Later in the year, Reggie's wife, Frances, started developing symptoms of a nervous breakdown, and started visiting the same Harley Street specialist, Dr Julius Silverstone, who looked after Ronnie. Perhaps she recognised the irony in the fact that this doctor was treating both her and the man she had come to loath above all others. It was hardly surprising she needed this attention. Her relationship with her husband had gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. Her marriage was now in a shambles and was having a pernicious effect on her mental health.

Most evenings, Reggie would return to his apartment, change into a fresh shirt and suit, and then drive to the home of the Sheas in Ormsby Street. They would not allow him into the house, and so he stood outside on the pavement, and talked to her as she leaned out of the second story bedroom window. Often, like some poignant and displaced Romeo and Juliet, these two poor, disjointed souls would spend the evening in conversation, semaphoring their anguish across an endless space of frustration and despair. By the end of October, she decided she wanted to annul the marriage, but although she discussed this, often, with her mother, she never got around to doing anything about it.


Death of a Villain

The Richardson brothers differed from the Krays in many ways. They were not twins; they were not traditional cockney villains, but more "bent" businessmen who were not notorious at first, for their violence; they operated scrap-yards south of the River Thames, organized long firm schemes and floated dubious companies from time to time.

There was no apparent reason why the two groups could not have co-habited. After their arrest and trial, the press made much of their reputation as torturers and the details of their internal brutality; their use of pliers to extract teeth and fingernails, and that electrodes were used to punish their victims. But in 1965, they represented a threat to the twins mainly because of two men who were in their gang.

One of these was "Mad" Frankie Fraser. In the autumn of 1965 he was released from prison after serving his sentence for slashing the face of Jack Comer. He joined up with the Richardson gang and quickly reaffirmed his reputation as a dangerous villain. He soon moved in, and forced his way into ownership of a chain of gambling machines that the twins owned. This seriously upset Ronnie. The twins had also been trying to strong arm the Richardsons into giving them a percentage of the extortion racket that the Richardson gang was operating through the car parks at London Heathrow Airport. Fraser turned them down.

The twins kept needling away at this and eventually another member of the Richardson gang, George Cornell, told Ronnie in no uncertain terms where to go. Legend has it that Cornell called Ronnie a "big fat poof," but according to Fraser, this never happened. The car park scam belonged to the Richardson gang, and that was that. But Ronnie did not forget.

The twins knew Cornell from his days as a member of the Watney Street Gang, and although they were not afraid of him, they were careful around him. He was a dangerous man. His original name had been Meyers, and he had changed it some years earlier. He stood about six feet tall, thick set, with a neck like a bull. He knew no fear and was totally aggressive, able to handle anyone or thing that got in his way. He was also known as a sadistic bully, and once had gone to prison for three years for slashing the face of a woman. He was a heavy drinker and very dangerous when intoxicated. Cornell had worked with the Krays at one time, but after he married, he crossed over into South London and joined up with the Richardson gang.

On March 8th, 1966, there was a major gangland fight at a club called Mr. Smith's, which was in Rushey Green, Catford, about three miles south of Greenwich. There have been a number of versions about just what did happen there that night, but one thing is certain. Three men were shot and wounded and one man was killed.

The club belonged to two men from Manchester, in northern England. They were club owners there, and had set their sights on developing their business into the London area. They had bought the club, but were having problems controlling some of the customers. Through Billy Hill, the retired gangster, they were introduced to the Richardson brothers. They agreed to handle the security problems and they also agreed to install gaming machines.

Late on this evening, Frankie Fraser, Eddie Richardson, and other members of their gang, including Jimmy Moody, Harry Rawlings and Ron Jeffries were sitting drinking on one side of the bar. Across the room, was a group of men including Billy Hayward, who along with his brother Harry, ran a group of villains operating in South London. Drinking with them, that night, was Dickie Hart, a member of The Firm.

Trouble started at 3.30 a.m. in the morning. It is thought that Billy Hayward, fearing retribution from the Richardson gang because of an affair he had been having with the wife of Roy Porritt, their mechanic, produced a gun and began to fire. In a shoot out that followed, Fraser and his boss, Eddie Richardson were wounded, Harry Rawlings was shot in the shoulder, and someone shot Richard Hart dead. Hart just happened to be a cousin of the twins. Rumor spread quickly that Cornel also had been there that night, and it was he who shot Hart.

The "Battle of Mr. Smith's Club" eventually resulted in the demise of the Richardson gang. The police moved in and the main members were soon tried and sent off to prison. The twins however were very upset, and felt the death of their cousin was a personal insult.

According to Fraser the next day, Cornell had been visiting a friend of his called Jimmy Andrews, who was in hospital recovering from a gun shot wound that had resulted in one of his legs being amputated. After the visit, Cornell and a friend of his called Albie Woods stopped off at a pub called The Blind Beggar, which was in the Whitechapel Road. Unknown to him, a few hundred yards to the north in Tapp Street, Ronnie, Reggie and some members of the Firm were drinking. Someone called the pub where they were, The Lion, and told Ronnie that Cornell was just down the road.

Taking one of his men, John "Scotch" Dickson and with another, Ian Barrie driving, they made their way down Brady Street, turning into the Whitechapel Road and pulling up outside The Blind Beggar. It was 8.30 p.m. and the pub was relatively empty. In the saloon bar, sitting on a stool next to a stone pillar, was Cornell. The juke-box was playing a Walker Brothers record — "The sun ain't gonna shine anymore." Only minutes before, a Metropolitan police inspector had left, after enjoying an after-work drink and a sandwich.

Cornell glanced across as Ronnie and Ian Barrie walked in. He sneered and said in a sarcastic sort of way, "Well look who's here now." Ronnie walked across the room and without a word, took out a 9mm Mauser semi-automatic pistol, presented it and shot Cornell in the head three times. With blood and brain tissue flying, Cornell bounced back against the pillar and then tumbled to the floor like a disjointed puppet. Barrie fired his gun into the ceiling and the few customers and the barmaid dived for cover. A ricocheting bullet hit the juke-box, and as Ronnie and his partner walked out of the bar, it stuck in its track and kept playing, "The sun ain't gonna shine anymore, anymore, anymore..."

For George Cornell, it never was.

After they left the pub, Ronnie's gun was dropped into the River Lea, which flows through Canning Town into the River Thames. Months later it was recovered, and today it reposes as an exhibit in Scotland Yard's famous Black Museum.

Cornell had been the wrong man in the wrong place at the wrong time. With Fraser and Eddie Richardson in hospital and the rest of their gang locked up, he was the only one available on whom to seek retribution for the killing of Hart. Cornell had been bad mouthing the Krays, but his murder was more about power and prestige than simply the avenging of insults. Quite simply, Ronnie believed his honor as a leader was involved and he had to show The Firm that he could act with authority when anyone threatened them.

Scotland Yard sent in one of their best detectives, Superintendent Butler, to carry out the investigation into the murder. Like everyone else, he knew who had killed Cornell, but proving it appeared impossible. The waitress who had witnessed the killing was unable to pick out Ronnie in a police line-up, and once more he went free.

Through the rest of the year, the twins operated in a state of unrest. They were still not sure just how much evidence the police were gathering against them. They often stayed the night with their mother in Vallance Road, and one night the widow of Cornell, Olive Hutton, came rampaging through the street smashing windows in the house and screaming threats at the twins for killing her husband. Hearing rumors of fresh evidence being uncovered against them, the twins fled the country and traveled to Morocco where they stayed for a few weeks, until the chief of the police threw them out of the country as undesirable aliens.

In October, Frances attempted suicide by gassing herself. Her father found her in time and she was rushed to Bethnal Green Hospital where she recovered.

The twins carried on with their business, but once again Ronnie was sinking into one of his manic periods, drinking and meditating often for days on end, leaving Reggie more and more in charge of running The Firm. Although they did not realize it, the retribution clock was now ticking, and the twins were living on borrowed time. By the time Reggie decided to go on holiday, in fact it was to be a second honeymoon, and take Frances to the Spanish island of Ibiza, he and his brother had less than a year to go.


Hat Removal

When Frances left hospital, she moved in with her brother Frankie and his wife who lived in a big block of apartments called Wimbourne Court. She was twenty-three, but was a much different person to the radiant bride, who had stood beaming beside Reggie as he cut the wedding cake, only a year before. She had lost weight, and become more a tired out waif than a bright, perky cockney girl. Reggie kept calling on her, promising to change his ways, determined that they could start again. On June 6th 1967, they went together and booked their holiday in Spain.

About noon the following day, her brother walked into her bedroom and found her dead in bed. On her third attempt, she had succeeded, this time with a massive dose of phenobarbitone. Reggie was inconsolable with grief. He blamed her parents and they blamed him. It was a lose-lose situation for them all.

Reggie and his brother organized the funeral, which turned out to be as big an event as his marriage. Flowers poured in from friends and allies throughout the London underworld. Reggie sent three wreaths, including a six-foot heart of scarlet roses pierced with an arrow of white carnations.

The burial ceremony at Chingford Cemetery was resonant with images and overtones of darkness and despair. The heavy overcast sky, the wreaths piled alongside the open grave; dark suited, sombre looking men paying their last respects, and everywhere, in the background, the presence of the law. Ronnie was absent. He was on the run again from a court case, this time as a witness in an extortion charge involving the police. So Reggie was left to grieve on his own, crying openly as his wife was lowered into her grave.

It was now Reggie's turn to sink down into a bottomless pit of despair and hate. He drank continually and became dangerous and mean. He brooded over his belief that his wife's death was the direct result of her family, and wanted to kill them. But the more he longed for relief through that route, the more he realised Frances would never forgive him.

As the weeks drifted away, Reggie went on a spree, shooting a man whom he considered had insulted his wife. Fortunately he was so drunk when he made the attempt, that he only wounded the victim. One night in a club in Highbury, he demanded money from a man called Freddie Fields, and when the man refused, Reggie shot him in the leg. He got into a fight with another man and ripped his face open with a knife.

All was not well within the organization. Two members, "Mad" Teddy Smith and a man called Frost disappeared and were never seen again. A man who decided to leave The Firm found a funeral wreath placed against the door of his house.

Ronnie continually brooded over the reticence his brother showed to actually kill someone. Reggie was happy to beat up and maim, but somehow always found a reason to pull back at the last minute. Ronnie could not understand this. Most people never dreamed of killing anyone. Ronnie seemed to dream of nothing else.

Reggie finally moved out of Ronnie's shadow and got his kill. He was a crook, which was hardly surprising. Gangsters rarely murder innocent victims; they almost always kill each other.

Jack "The Hat" McVitie was a typical East End villain. He stood six feet two, was strong as a bull and as tough as a rhinoceros. In 1959, he was serving time in Exeter Prison along with "Mad" Frankie Fraser and Jimmy Andrews (the man Cornel was visiting in hospital the night he was shot by Ronnie.) After a fracas with prison guards, McVitie was badly beaten by a group of wardens. In retaliation, Fraser felled the prison governor and Andrews decked the head prison officer. Fraser and Andrews finished up in hospital along with McVitie. The three all received multiple strokes of the lash for their indiscretion.

In the spring of 1967 "The Hat" was involved in a dispute with a gang of toughs and they smashed his hands with a crowbar. But once they healed, he was back brawling. He fuelled his temper and boosted his nerve with a mixture of alcohol and pep pills called 'black bombers.' He always wore a hat to cover a bald spot, apparently even in the bath. While he was generous and kind to children, he was less than perfect in the way he treated women. On one occasion he pushed a woman out of a moving car, and the fall broke her back.

He never belonged in The Firm, only to it, being used by the twins to carry out odd jobs and do the occasional bit of GBH (grievous bodily harm) to keep someone in line. He basically operated as a freelance robber.

In September, Ronnie became convinced that Leslie Payne was going to deal with the police to avoid a prosecution charge that was looming over him. Ronnie gave McVitie one hundred pounds and a handgun and told him to kill Payne. He promised a further four hundred pounds when the job was done.

McVitie never got around to the killing and refused to pay the deposit back, which caused Ronnie some earnest aggravation. Drunk and disorderly, McVitie staggered into the 211 Club in Balham, South London, one night and threatened to wreck the place. The owner happened to be Billy Foreman a good friend of the twins. This was another strike against McVitie. The final straw came when he brandished a sawn-off shotgun at the owners of the Regency Club, John and Tony Barry, who were associates of the twins. By this time Ronnie and Reggie were seriously upset by his actions.

On October 28th, 1967, the twins and many of their friends and associates were drinking at The Carpenters Arms, a local pub off the Vallance Road. Later that night, according to the local grapevine, there was a party going down at a house in Evering Road, Stoke Newington, about two miles up the road from Bethnal Green. The place belonged to a woman called 'Blonde Carol' Skinner, a thin, pale woman in her mid twenties, divorced with two small children. She lived with a man who worked for the Krays.

As the night unfolded, the sequence of events led unerringly, for McVitie, into a one way street with no way of escape.

That evening at the Carpenters Arms, Tony and Chris Lambrianou introduced two friends of theirs, also brothers, Tony and Alan Mills, to the twins. The Mills brothers were from Birmingham where Chris worked. He wasn't part of The Firm, but his brother was. The Lambrianou brothers went off to The Regency about 10 p.m. and there, met up with Ronnie Hart, a cousin of the twins, and McVitie. They stayed there drinking until late in the evening. Ronnie excused himself at some stage and left. The Lambrianou brothers were good friends of "The Hat" and when they suggested that they all go to the party, McVitie didn't hesitate to agree. The five men piled into a car and shortly before midnight arrived at the house.

Ronnie and Reggie had been there for about an hour, clearing away other guests. Along with the twins, there were two of Ronnie's pet boys, a man called Ronnie Bender and Ronnie Hart. As McVitie entered the room, Reggie walked up to him and raised a .32 semi-automatic pistol to his head and squeezed the trigger. The gun jammed. Ronnie, his face red and eyes bulging was screaming at McVitie. The Mills brothers fled from the room, as did the two young boys. Reggie was now grappling with McVitie, pushing and shoving him across the floor towards a window that opened onto a garden. McVitie tried desperately to squeeze through, but only got his head and shoulders outside, before the twins grabbed his legs and pulled him back inside.

His hat now gone, McVitie was standing in the room, sweat pouring down his face, looking terribly afraid.

"Why are you doing this, Reg?" he shouted.

"Kill him, kill him!" now snarled Ronnie.

Reggie grabbed a butchers knife from Bender and plunged it into McVitie's face, and then over and over again into the chest and stomach of the victim, finally impaling him through the throat into the floor. When McVitie was finally dead, his body was wrapped in some bedding and carried from the room and placed in Bender's car. Tony Lambrianou drove off, followed in another car by Bender and Tony's brother, Chris.

They were told to get rid of it in the East End but decided they were going to leave the body somewhere south of the Thames in the Richardson area, hoping blame for the killing would be laid at their door. When Bender contacted the twins and told them he had left the body in a car near a church called St Mary's, near the southern entrance to the Rotherhithe Tunnel in Bermondsey, they were concerned. Instead of the police tying in the killing to the Richardson Gang, they might link it to their friend Billy Foreman. They contacted their brother Charlie, who drove across to South London from Bethnal Green, and made arrangements with Ronnie Hart and Freddie Foreman, Billy's brother, to dispose of the body. It has never been found to this day.

Afterwards, Reggie said, "I did not regret it at the time and I don't regret it now. I have never felt a moment's regret."


Enter the Old Bill

Jack McVitie had disappeared but the police at this stage did not know what had happened. The woman he lived with reported him missing, but there was not much the authorities could do. Lots of people knew something had gone down, but the wall of silence remained up in the East End. Reggie and Ronnie went off for a holiday in Cambridge and then into the beauty and soothing solitude of the Suffolk countryside. Ronnie borrowed a car and was chauffeured around to look at rural properties. He could see himself as a country squire, riding to the hounds, trout fishing on his private estate. Reggie drank himself stupid most nights.

Back in London at about the time Reggie was making his kill and achieving his long time ambition to at last be the equal of his brother, another man was also accomplishing a long awaited desire. Physically smaller than the twins, at only five feet seven inches in height, he was a compact, dark haired man, with a serious smile and an easygoing nature. At forty-three, Leonard Read was promoted to detective superintendent, posted to Scotland Yard and allowed for the first time to wear a very special tie. A globe pierced with a stiletto on a maroon background, it signified him as one of the top twelve detectives in the nation.

Soon after moving into his new office, he was summoned to a meeting with assistant commissioner Peter Brodie. He was briefed on a secret inquiry that had been started months before. He was to take over and see it through. It was to be a top-priority investigation and its aim was simple. To stalk, track down, corner, and finally once and for all, catch the Kray twins.

Of all the policemen available for the job, Nipper Read was almost a perfect choice. He had enjoyed a rapid rise through the ranks of the Metropolitan force, based on ability rather than political clout; he was already a detective-inspector by the early age of thirty-six, and was one of the youngest men to carry his present rank. A loner by nature, he had made police work his only interest and pursued it with a passion that allowed nothing else. He had no hobbies and few friends. His wife and teenage daughter had resigned themselves to coming second in his life, after his job.

A cool, deliberate professional, he did not underestimate the nature of the job he had been given, or the size of the problem. The twins had already beaten off the law on numerous occasions, and he himself had felt the power of their control, not only over gangland London, but also the media.

The first problem he encountered on taking over the investigation was the lack of co-ordinated intelligence available on the twins' activities. There also seemed to be a singular lack of urgency and even of interest among the top men at Scotland Yard to nail the brothers.

One thing Read soon established was the strength of the Krays and he realised it would take a mammoth effort to destroy them. He needed a lot of support and quickly put together a strong team to form his operating and administration weapon.

He brought in John du Rose, head of the Murder Squad; Superintendent Harry Mooney, Superintendent Don Adams, and for his personal assistant, Chief-Inspector Frank Cater. They, and the other fifteen staff that would form the nucleus of the "Get Krays" squad, moved into offices in a building called Tintagel House. It was located across the River Thames from Scotland Yard. When they were all settled into their new premises, Read called a meeting and briefed his team. He finished by telling them that he had set a deadline on their investigation. It was to be three months. As events would prove, it would take a bit longer than that.

Read had acquired his nickname "Nipper," as a light-weight police boxing champion when he fought as a young man early in his career. He was to display the same speed and guile in his war with the Krays. He set up parameters for his team in their preparation for the work ahead. They would be up against a deadly enemy. All of them would have regular handgun practice. At this time, as it is now, it was not common for British police to carry firearms. Reed's people had to become proficient with them. He knew that their opponents were. Security had to be strictly observed; travel routes would vary each day and each member would take all measures necessary to protect themselves and their families.

Read decided that one way to get the twins would be through their past. For over twelve years they had been extorting, wounding and committing other acts of a major criminal nature. Somewhere in among all of this, he reasoned there had to be a weak link in the chain fence the twins had erected to shields themselves from the law. He narrowed down potential targets to thirty and listed them in a black notebook. He called this his "delightful index."

The squad began its investigation by visiting nightclubs and book-making offices to try and pin down any evidence of extortion by The Firm. Read soon realised that at some stage, they would have to rely on evidence from other criminals if they were going to be successful in their objective.

He and du Rose had a long and heated meeting at Scotland Yard with top police lawyers and eventually persuaded them to accept the need to use criminals to catch them. As Bert Wickstead, a top London policeman, was fond of saying, "In the twilight world of the gangster, archbishops are thin on the ground."

Potential witnesses against the twins were interviewed, but the chain-link fence could not be broken. One man, who had been attacked by them and subsequently ruined, was asked why he would not help to put them away.

"I hate the sight of blood," he said, "particularly my own."

Then Read had his big break. It came from Leslie Payne. He knew about McVitie's abortive bid to kill him, and how it had originated. "The Hat's" subsequent disappearance convinced Payne that he needed to act and protect himself further against Ronnie, and the wrath of The Firm. He passed word down to Read that he was ready to talk.

Over the next three weeks, secreted away in a seedy hotel in Marylebone, he sat and talked to Read and some of his team. He filled over two hundred pages of testimony by the time he was through. He detailed all that he knew about the twins: Esmaralda's Barn, the long-firm frauds, the rackets, the violence, and their connection to the Mafia in America. By Christmas, Read had a huge database. Next he needed proof and witnesses to corroborate it all.


Decision Time

1968 was a year for all things. To paraphrase Charles Dickens, "It was the best of times. It was the worst of times."

In May, students and workers in France almost toppled the Gaullist government. The Nigerian Civil War in Biafra entered its eleventh month. Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jnr. were assassinated. Two black athletes at the Mexico Olympic Games shocked the world with their Black Power salute. In Vietnam, the Tet offensive brought home yet again what an unwinnable war this was turning out to be. The Soviet Union invaded Czechoslovakia. Stanley Kubrick released his film masterpiece, 2001.

In mid December three American astronauts were the first people to orbit the moon.

And Read finally achieved his objective. After almost fifteen years of playing their own tune, Reggie and Ronnie had finally to pay the piper.

In the first weeks of the new year, Read's team travelled extensively across England, into Europe and across to Canada and the United States checking out Payne's leads. While Read and his team were working around the clock, Reggie and Ronnie were adopting a low profile. They knew from their informants what was going on; they were just not sure how much information the police were going to be able to dig up. Ronnie rang up Harrods, the famous store, and had their pet department send him a python. He played with it for hours, calling it Read, and feeding it pet mice.

Ronnie went ahead with his dreams of becoming a country squire, and purchased a Victorian mansion called The Brooks at Bidleston, a pretty village in Suffolk. The twins spent a lot of their free time here, entertaining their closest friends. Their parents moved into a small lodge on the estate and managed the property for them. Although their criminal activities were being curtailed by the constant police action, Ronnie was still working away at his schemes, now using Alan Cooper, who had replaced Payne, as their chief adviser.

On April 2nd, he and Ronnie travelled to Paris and then flew to New York. There they met up with Joey Kaufman, a small Jewish-Italian businessman. He acted as their host and arranged for Ronnie to travel around the city to meet up with an assortment of people gamblers, boxers, entertainment celebrities and some small time gangsters.

Kaufman was connected to the Gallo Brothers, who, with a small, dedicated group of followers, were busy waging a fierce, internecine war within the Profaci family of the New York Mafia. As a result, Ronnie never actually touched base with anyone of major importance in the Mob, although one day, Kaufman drove Ronnie across Brooklyn to the Gallo headquarters. Set in an old building one block up from the waterfront at 49-51 President Street, in the Red Hook section, he met up with and had talks with the two of the brothers. Nothing concrete developed from this meeting, but overall, Ronnie enjoyed his trip, and seemed well and rejuvenated, when he flew back into London.

He and Cooper had many meetings about reorganizing The Firm along the lines that the American Mafia followed. They needed to move in on the unions, the docks, taxis and building construction areas. There was an enormous market waiting to be exploited outside of the limits of their normal rackets.

They met up again with Angelo Bruno, the Philadelphia Mafia boss, who was visiting London to check out opportunities in West End casino interests. Ronnie believed that he was not being taken seriously enough by his American counterparts, and decided that he would impress them by engineering a series of high profile assassinations. One of these would be on a West End club-owner called George Caruana, and to make it more impressive, Ronnie decided that he was to be killed by a bomb detonated in his car.

Cooper was to organize the hit using a contact called Paul Elvey.

They finally decided to use dynamite as the explosive agent, and Elvey was sent to Glasgow, in Scotland, to collect four sticks from a contact of Cooper's. As part of their investigation, Read had Cooper under constant surveillance, and through this learned of Elvey's proposed visit. He arranged for the police in Scotland to arrest Elvey as he was boarding his aircraft for the return flight to London, and had him brought around to Tintagel House. Under interrogation he broke down, and revealed Cooper as the brains behind the attempt on Caruana's life.

Read had Cooper brought in for questioning, but when he was threatened with being charged, Cooper stunned Read by informing him that he was working for Scotland Yard. He had, it seemed, been working for some years for the U.S. Treasury Department; they had caught him in one of his gold-smuggling schemes, and offered him the option of working with them, or going to prison. He worked through a Treasury agent based at the U.S. Embassy in Paris, who continually monitored him, and passed information on to John du Rose. One senior police officer at The Yard believed that Cooper was playing off the Krays, Scotland Yard and the U.S. Treasury, in order to safeguard his own interests. John du Rose had apparently tolerated him, but kept him away from Read.

For now, Read had to accept the situation, and instead of arresting and charging him as an accessory, had to use him instead, as a witness against the twins. A major strategy meeting was called with the senior investigating officers, and it was decided to go for the twins. It was risky, in that a lot of evidence so far gathered, had to be supported by informants' testimony, and unless the twins were remanded without bail, there was a major threat from them of witness intimidation. If that was successful, the Krays might well walk away again.


Time for Parting

Late in the evening of May 8th, Read gathered his team together for a final briefing. By midnight, over sixty extra police officers had arrived at Tintagel House. The plan was to strike at dawn, and simultaneously arrest the twins and twenty-four other members of The Firm. The police officers would all be armed, and could expect to meet violence. Every one of the twenty-four addresses targeted had to be hit at the same time, so no one could give warning of the attack. All those arrested would be brought in to West End Central Police Station, Headquarters of C Division, situated in Saville Row, for processing.

As Read was briefing the squad, the twins were on the town, entertaining the New Yorker, Joey Kauffman. After picking him up at The Mayfair Hotel, they first went drinking and socialising in a favourite local pub in Bethnal Green and finished the night at the Astor Club in the West End. The twins returned to their parents' apartment at Braithwaite House, in Shoreditch, where they were currently living. Here, at dawn, Read and his men smashed in the front door and stormed the bedrooms. Ronnie was curled up with a fair-haired boy and Reggie was sleeping with a girl from Walthamstowe.

Before they knew what was happening, they were handcuffed and on their way to the police station in the West End of London. Read's car was the first one to arrive at the building in Saville Row.

Once Read had the twins remanded and safely locked away in Brixton Gaol, he and his team had only a few weeks before preliminary hearings to stitch together their case. Two of The Firm — Ronnie Hart and Ian Barrie — had escaped the police net on May 9th, and it was feared that many of the potential witnesses would back off, fearing retribution. However, they were quickly tracked down and arrested, and on July 6th, the twins were arraigned in a preliminary hearing before the Metropolitan Chief Magistrate, Mr Frank Milton, at Old Street Court. A preliminary hearing lays down evidence to discover if there is just cause to commit defendants for trial to a superior court.

Seated in court, the twins realised just how thorough Read and his team had been in their investigation, when one of their crew, Billy Exley, was summoned to give evidence. A former bodyguard of Ronnie's, he had helped to organize some of their long firm frauds. He knew a lot of their secrets; among other things, he had been on watch the day Cornell was killed. His presence as a witness for the prosecution was an ominous warning of things to come. In the East End of London, police informants were sometimes known as "wedding men" — they like the weddings, but wanted no part in the funerals of life. Another Cockney term to describe them is "screamers" — people who are okay when life is going well, but who scream their heads off when things go wrong. The police called a long list of these people, and their evidence was a crushing blow to the Krays.

Also among the witnesses paraded through the court in the days that followed was the barmaid from The Blind Beggar. Although she had been unable to identify the killer of Cornel when questioned by the police that night, she was now under police protection and a lot more confident when she pointed out Ronnie and Ian Barrie as the two men who had walked into the bar and committed the murder.

By the time that the preliminary hearing was over, enough evidence had been presented to refer the case for trial at the Old Bailey, London's central criminal court and the premier court of criminal justice in Great Britain.

After eight months on remand, the Kray twins went to trial early in January 1969. Theirs was to be the longest and most expensive criminal case in British history. Held in Number One court before Judge Melford Stevenson, it rolled on for many weeks.

Although they had spent years running a criminal empire across the East and West ends of London, involving long firm frauds, extortion, strong-arming of club owners, disposal of stolen securities, fraud, blackmail and assault, the twins in fact were only tried and convicted for the murders of George Cornel and Jack McVitie.

On March 8th, 1969, after the jury found them guilty, Mr Justice Melford pronounced sentence. For the murders of Cornel and McVitie, Ronnie and Reggie would go to prison for life (under British law, this generally means serving a sentence of between ten and twelve years), but the learned judge, in his wisdom, recommended that their sentences should be not less than thirty years.

The twins were thirty-five years old, and their lives on the streets were over forever.

Their brother, Charlie, now aged 41, received a ten-year prison sentence for being an accessory to the murder of Jack McVitie. For his part in the Cornel murder, Ian Barrie went down for life, with a recommendation that he serve at least twenty years. Four other members of The Firm were sent to prison for their parts in the murder of McVitie.

After his sentence, Reggie was transferred south to Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight, Ronnie was sent north to Durham Prison, and Charlie went east to serve his time in Chelmsford Prison.

The brothers and their crime organization were effectively eliminated by a sentence that reflected more the petulance of the establishment, than the legal requirements of justice being served. Particularly when examined in the light of another iniquitous crime that occurred only two years earlier in London.

On August 12th, 1966, in broad daylight, three police officers were shot dead in Braybrook Street, Hammersmith, in west London. Three men were eventually arrested, tried and convicted of the crime, which the presiding judge described as:

"The most heinous crime to have been committed in this country for a generation or more."

And yet, one of the killers, John Witney, was released from prison after twenty-two years. To murder a street thug like Jack McVitie was apparently a more heinous crime than to shoot down a police officer; Reggie still languishes in prison, thirty years after his sentence was imposed, with no apparent sign that the Home Office will agree to his release.


Carpe Diem

The Richardson gang had gone and the Kray gang had gone, but life carried on, and so of course did crime. There were to be other gangsters and other gangs to terrorize London and keep the police busy over the years to come: the Dixons and the Tibbs; Bertie Small and his mob; the Arif family; the Legal and General gang led by Reggie Dudly and Bob Maynard; the Knight family. The list of villains is as endless as the opportunities that spawned and nurtured them.

Detective Sergeant Harry Challenor, a famous "Flying Squad" detective once remarked: "Fighting crime in London was like trying to swim against a tide of sewage; you made two strokes forward and were swept back three. For every villain you put behind bars there were always two more to take their place." But the Kray twins were out of the loop now, seemingly forever.

John du Rose, known as "Four Day Johnny" for the speed with which he solved his cases retired from The Yard. "Nipper" Read went on a course and then became guv'nor of Y Division covering North London. He eventually moved north to become The Deputy Chief Constable of Nottingham police. Ronnie Hart, the cousin of the twins and one of their chief betrayers, attempted suicide, and then emigrated to Australia. Alan B. Cooper, the man of mystery, lived up to his reputation and disappeared.

But for Reggie and Ronnie there were only endless days and endless nights to fill, as they wasted their lives away behind prison bars. Early in 1972, after much lobbying and campaigning by their family, led by their redoubtable mother Violet, Reggie and Ronnie were reunited in the maximum security wing of Parkhurst Prison. Here, Reggie would exercise each day with his weights, and Ronnie would paint - always the same picture of a country landscape with a distant cottage and a tree. On his bad days, he would change the painting by including a black sun in the sky. Many years later, after attacking another prisoner, Ronnie was transferred to Broadmoor Mental Hospital at Crowthorne in Berkshire. He would be here for the rest of his life.

Every six months, Reggie was taken on an escorted visit to meet with his brother who, sedated and with luxuries such as a plentiful supply of cigarettes to comfort him, seemed happy and content. Ronnie, the avowed homosexual, married twice while he was serving his time. In 1985, he wed Elaine Mildener. She had started out writing to and visiting Reggie, but somehow her allegiance changed focus. However by 1989, the marriage had become a burden to them both and they were divorced. Two months later, Ron married again inside the walls of Broadmoor. This time to a "Kissogram Girl" called Kate Howard, a divorcee from Kent. Strangely enough she also started out visiting Reggie, but again he missed out to his younger brother.

On March 17th, 1995, Ronnie Kray died of a massive heart attack in Wexham Park Hospital in Slough, Berkshire. He was 61, and his death was due in no small way to a very bad tobacco habit. He smoked 100 cigarettes a day through most of his adult life. His dying words were supposedly , "Oh God, Mother, help me!"

Reggie and Charlie organized the funeral arrangements and it was set for Wednesday, March 29th, 1995. The service was held at St Mathew's in Bethnal Green and the burial was scheduled for Chingford Cemetery, six miles to the north, where lay the bodies of Charlie senior, Violet and Frances Shea.

Many thousands of people lined the streets from Bethnal Green to the cemetery to watch as Ronnie's coffin, enclosed in a glass-sided hearse, was carried along by six black, plumed horses, leading a procession of twenty five limousines. The funeral was said to have cost 10,000 British Pounds.

The arrangements were handled by W. English & Son, who it is rumored were never paid in full for their services. In a bizarre twist, a second funeral had to be held some months later to bury Ronnie's brain. This had been removed by a Home Office pathologist and sent off for forensic analysis. None of the Kray family had been informed about this at the time of the funeral. Two years later, Reggie was trying to organize an official inquiry into his brother's death.

Among the mourners, were well known gangsters from London's past, including Frankie Fraser, Johnny Nash, Teddy Dennis and Frankie Foreman. Reggie placed a wreath on the grave that simply said, "To the other half of me." He went to the service and the internment, the whole time handcuffed to a man who appeared to be the biggest prison guard in Britain. Reggie, who stood a little under six feet, looks in a photograph taken at the time, like a tiny, confused Lilliputian manacled to a stern, inexorable Gulliver.

After the funeral, Reggie was returned to Maidstone Prison, where he continued to serve his sentence. After Ronnie was transferred to Broadmoor, Reggie was shifted around the British prison system. He was moved to Long Lanten, then Wandsworth, then on to Gartree in Leicester. He was progressively posted to prisons in Nottingham, Blundeston, Maidstone and finally to Norfolk.

He now resides at Wayland Prison near the town of Watton, which is situated in the district of Breckland, about one hundred miles northeast of London. Here he continues to serve his sentence and live in hope that next time the Parole Board will grant him his freedom. That next time is in March, when it will sit in judgment of him. Even if the board decided to release him, under the British penal system, he will have to serve at least two years in an open prison before finally becoming a free man.

On July 14th, 1997, Reggie married a 38-year-old called Roberta Jones. A bright, intelligent (an honors graduate ) successful businesswoman, involved in marketing and media fields, she first met Reggie to discuss details about a proposed video on his late brother. Less than a year later they were tying the knot behind the prison walls at Wayland. She was not the first one to fall under his spell. In 1993 it was Sandra Wrightson, who divorced her husband citing Reggie as the other man in her life. In 1995 it was the turn of schoolgirl Sophie Williams. He was also the godfather to singer and actress Patsy Kensit.

Even at the age of 66 and seemingly forever behind prison bars, Reggie Kray exerts a transcendent influence on people, particularly women. Roberta devotes her time and energy in fighting for the release of Reggie. She finds it hard to understand that her husband remains locked away, when the government continue to release child killers and IRA terrorists.

It appears her view is shared by the British public. In a recent newspaper poll, nine out of ten people thought Reggie had served his time and should be released. Even Nipper Read, his arch nemesis, has spoken out in his defense. In February, 1998, in a reported interview in the British Daily Mail newspaper, he said, "He has done the length of time that the court felt was right for his crimes. I see no objection to him being released."

There is a world wide web site devoted essentially to the same purpose. There are books galore, and of course the famous 1990 movie The Krays starring real-life twins, Martin and Gary Kemp formerly of the rock band, Spandau Ballet. The twins were also the inspiration for the famous Monty Python skit "The Piranha Brothers." Their place in gangland history is assured, if not for the acts they committed then surely for the publicity they have generated and the punishment they received.

Reggie lived on, not only in a different, millennium, but almost in a different world. When he went away in 1969, the IT era was simply an idea in a small case... it was possible and probably would come about, but seemed as far away as those men bouncing around on the moon. Cellular phones were not even on the drawing board, and Bill Gates was a little kid in baggy shorts.

Looking back on the good old days, one of the "The Firm," Tony Lambrianou, 66, reminisced. He had gone to prison in 1969 for being an accessory to the murder of Jack McVitie. In essence, all he had done was help get rid of the body. In all probability, he had no idea that Reggie was going to go berserk that night and commit the murder.

He now earns his living, like so many of the criminals of that period, by writing books, appearing on TV shows and guest speaking; he has even appeared on a British rap record called "Product of the Environment."

He speaks enthusiastically about "the swinging-sixties,."

The East End was a hard place...it became famous for turning out gangsters. There was a better class of criminal in those day....there were rules you lived by, and if you broke them, you paid the price. Back when I was doin' it, the code was this: You don't grass on your own mates. Ever. You respect women. You never steal off your own...The violence was among ourselves, or between us and people who knew our rules. If anyone was dealing with us, they were shady to begin with and they knew the score...The streets were safer when we was around, 'cos no one in their right mind would come into our area and commit crimes...People don't respect life like we used to, or even respect themselves. I mean look how people dress. We may have been villains, but we always looked sharp.

Charlie, the elder brother of the twins, left them as good an obituary as any self-respecting villain from the East End could probably expect:

Sure the twins killed people. Yeah, people who had families and that, and there's no justification. But they was in the twins orbit. What I'm saying is, it wasn't normal people the twins done.

Amen to that.


Final Curtain

Charlie Kray, the eldest brother, died after complications due to heart trouble at about nine p.m. on the evening of April 4th, 2000.

He was serving a 12-year prison sentence for drug smuggling in Parkhurst Prison on the Isle of Wight, just off the coast of southern England. He had been transferred to the prison hospital after becoming ill. His brother Reggie was moved from his cell at Wayland Prison in Norfolk so that he could spend time with his brother towards the end.

They put Charlie to rest on Wednesday, April 19th. It was a smaller version, scale size that is, of the way the East End had said goodbye to Ronnie five years earlier in 1995. Thousands of people crowded the streets and rooftops surrounding the funeral parlour of W. English & Son, the undertakers. The funeral cars were crammed to overflowing with flowers, one in the shape of a broken heart from Charlie's girlfriend Diane Buffini that read, "To my darling Charlie, with my eyes wide open. Am I dreaming, can it be time?"

At about 11a.m. Reggie, the last surviving brother, arrived to cheers and applause from the crowd. Trim and looking remarkably fit at 66 years old and after over 30 years in prison, he was smartly dressed in a double-breasted suit, and handcuffed to a female prison warder.

After a service at St. Matthews Church, which was packed to capacity with hundreds more following the service from outside, the funeral procession moved slowly north to Chingford Mount Cemetery, guided by police escorts with a police helicopter overhead keeping a close watch on the proceeding convoy.

At the cemetery, thousands of people had gathered for their last glimpse of Charlie. Reggie laid flowers, first on his first wife's grave and then his parents' burial plot before throwing a single rose into the grave that now held his eldest brother. It can only be imagined if he had begun to feel the first stirrings of the cancer that would destroy him, and in less than six months lead him back to this tree shaded corner site where he would join Charlie and Ronnie in the family burial site. He had originally purchased the plot back in 1967 as a resting place for his first wife, Frances Shea, and subsequently his mother, father and then Ronnie had been buried there.

Returned to Wayland Prison in Norfolk to continue his sentence, Reggie became ill and was rushed to hospital on August 3rd. After an exploratory operation, he was found to have inoperable cancer of the bladder, and three weeks later, Jack Straw the British Home Secretary, approved his official release from prison, after 32 years, on compassionate grounds.

He spent the final days of his life in the honeymoon suite of the Beefeater Town House hotel in Thorpe Saint Andrew on the outskirts of Norwich where he died peacefully in his sleep on October 1st.

Like his brothers before him, Reggie was buried from English and Son, the undertakers in Bethnal Green. Six black-plumed horses carried the coffin from the undertakers to St. Mathew's Church, half a mile up the road. It was estimated that up to one hundred thousand people lined the streets of the funeral cortege, crowds standing six deep along Bethnal Green Road. "It's an East End event said a woman. I think they were a legend. The public liked them. They were gangsters, fun."

The Metropolitan Police Force were in attendance, manning the route to maintain control, eight inspectors, twenty-six sergeants and one hundred seventy officers taking to the streets to ensure public safety. Police from six districts were called in on the mammoth crowd control exercise along the nine-mile funeral procession from the East End of London to the cemetery in Chingford.

Alongside them, almost 400 burly, sinister looking thugs in long leather jackets or Crombie overcoats wearing red armbands and lapel badges with the letters RFK (Reg Kray Funeral), provided a private security guard for the procession. 18 limousines carried family and friends, two being reserved solely for the huge collections of flowers and wreaths. One, from actress Barbara Windsor said simply, "With Love." Some read, "Respect," "Legend," "Free at Last," and "Beloved." But perhaps the most telling of all was "Reunited at Last."

As the quiet and almost intimate burial of Reggie, who was interred alongside his twin brother Ronnie at 3 p.m. on this slate grey afternoon, took place, his wife Roberta and a few chosen mourners were seen throwing red roses into the grave. In his will, Reggie had asked to be buried in the same grave as Ronnie because he said that way he would be back where he belonged - with his brother.

Kate Kray, who had married Ronnie in prison in 1989, remembered Reggie attending her husband's funeral. "Reggie died the day Ron died," she said. "The saddest thing I ever saw in my whole life was the moment Reg said goodbye to Ron. He was weeping uncontrollably. He was destroyed."

Now at last Reggie Kray was free and back home with his beloved brother.

TruTV.com

 

 
 
 
 
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