The Kray Twins: Brothers in Arms
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.