The Kray Twins: Brothers in Arms
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.