John McVitie was a tough, hard man. He was better known as Jack 'The Hat' because he was never ever seen without his trilby. He was losing his hair and couldn't bare to let anyone see his bald patch. Rumour has it that he didn't even take it off to have a bath! He could handle himself in a scrap and wasn't afraid to speak his mind. The problem was he was usually out of his mind on drink or drugs.
At one time he was "a lovely man" says Frankie Fraser who had spent some time with him in prison. It was while they were in Exeter prison in 1959 that Frank and Jimmy Andrews (who Cornell was visiting in hospital on the day of his murder) stuck up for Jack 'The Hat' after he had a straight fight with a prison warden. Jack beat the officer fair and square but there are no straight fights with the prison authorities and Jack was later dragged from his cell and badly beaten. Frank and Jimmy had said that if Jack was touched in any way that they would retaliate.
The next day Frank knocked out the Prison Governor and Jimmy knocked out the Chief prison officer.
Frank and Jimmy ended up in hospital badly injured.
Jack 'The Hat' received 12 strokes of the birch for his attack on the officer, Jimmy Andrews got 15 and Frankie Fraser got the maximum 18 strokes for their assaults on the Governor and the Chief.
By 1967 Jack was a loud-mouthed drunk, he was not only dealing in drugs but taking them as well. He was getting arrogant and abusive, threatening the Twins and causing trouble to many of their friends. He caused some damage in Freddie Foreman's club in Balham High road and he had to be thrown out.
He tried to shoot Tommy Flannegan in the Regency club and once after cutting a man in the basement of the club he went upstairs and wiped the bloody knife on a woman's dress. One evening he had been stopped from entering the Regency for being too drunk. He came back later and threatened to shoot John Barry and his brother, the owners of the club. They were paying protection to their silent partners Ronnie and Reggie Kray and asked them if they would sort it out.
The Twins were getting complaints about him all the time. They had warned him on numerous occasions but Jack wouldn't listen. He also owed Ronnie and Reggie money. He wasn't one of the Firm but he did work for the Twins occasionally and It has been said that the money he owed the Krays was for the contract killing of their business manager Leslie Payne, which he never carried out.
The evening before his death, he was drinking in the Regency club when Reg payed him a visit. He warned Jack again about his conduct and the recent fracas with the Barrys. Jack 'The Hat' complained that "those bastards wouldn't let me in". Reg told him, as he did many times before, that he was out of order and couldn't go around upsetting their friends and business associates. The meeting was quite amicable and Reg left, feeling that he had done all he could to let Jack know how he and Ronnie felt about his attitude. But Reg knew he was wasting his time and that Jack 'The Hat' McVitie was going to be a big, big problem.
The following evening Tony and Chris Lambrianou took two friends, Tony and Alan Mills to the Carpenters Arms to meet the Twins. They were up and coming villains from Birmingham where Chris was now working. He wasn't part of the Firm but his brother Tony Lambrianou was.
Although Chris was based in Birmingham he would come to London every few weeks to have a night out with his brother and go up West or have a few drinks in one of the many East End clubs.
The Carpenters Arms was packed. The Twins seemed in good form. Their Mum and Dad were there and a few of the Firm. The place was buzzing. And so was Chris Lambrianou who had earlier taken some speed.
After he had introduced the Mills brothers and had a few drinks with Ronnie and Reggie he wanted to move on somewhere else. Chris wanted to go up West but his brother Tony persuaded him to have a drink in the Regency.
When they arrived, Jack 'The Hat' and Ronnie Hart joined them for a few drinks. Later in the evening Jack noticed that Tony wasn't there and he asked Chris where he had gone. Chris didn't know but it wasn't too long before he returned.
Tony said that there was a party in Evering road at Blonde Carol's, with plenty of women and drink and they were all invited. Jack was well up for it and couldn't wait to get there.
The events leading up to the party were not as spontaneous as one would at first imagine. The only one of the group who knew the truth was Tony Lambrianou. Earlier in the day Reggie Kray had been to the Regency club and told John Barry to let him know if Jack turned up. When Tony was in the Carpenters Arms earlier it is possible that he was ordered to go to the club and keep McVitie there until it was decided what should be done with him. When Tony disappeared for a while he was actually upstairs talking to Reggie. Tony couldn't tell the others of the plot because it would make Jack too suspicious.
Anyway, they all set off for Blonde Carol's basement flat in Evering road. As soon as Jack arrived he knew something was up. Ronnie was already there, along with his two friends Trevor and Terry, Reggie Kray, Ronnie Bender and Ronnie Hart. Ronnie came up to him and gave him a load of verbal abuse and told him to fuck off. Jack should have kept his mouth shut but as ever he retaliated saying what had it got to do with them what he did. Reggie pulled out a gun and held it to Jack's head and pulled the trigger. It didn't work. Again he pulled the trigger and the same thing happened. The Mills brothers wanted no part of this and quickly left. Chris Lambrianou had no idea that Jack had been set up and was shocked at what he knew was about to happen.
However his account of what happened next differs from his brother Tony's version.
Chris says that Ronnie could see that he couldn't handle the situation and told Connie Whitehead, who had just turned up, to take him home. Connie dropped him off in Queensbridge road and went back to the flat. Chris was worried about leaving his brother behind so he armed himself with a handgun, jumped in a taxi and returned to the party. When he got there Jack 'The Hat' was dead, the Twins were gone and Ronnie Bender was left to dispose of the body and clean up the flat. Tony was hanging about outside because he knew Chris would come back for him.
Tony Lambrianou tells a different story. He says that when Reggie's gun jammed he told Chris to go home and get another one. Connie Whitehead drove him there, he picked up the gun and they returned to Evering road. When they got there, the deed was done, the Twins were gone and Chris, Tony, Ronnie Bender and Connie Whitehead were left to clean up the flat and dispose of the body.
Jack fought back but was soon overwhelmed by the others in the room. Reg picked up a knife that was on a plate nearby and plunged it into Jack's chest. He was then stabbed in the face and again in the chest. The Twins quickly left while the others remained to dispose of the evidence.
Jack's body was wrapped in an eiderdown and bundled into the back seat of a car. Tony Lambrianou dove it while his brother Chris and Ronnie Bender followed. They had planned to take the body to South London and dump it there so that the Richardsons associates would get the blame.
They eventually left the body outside a church called St Mary's on the south side of the Rotherhithe tunnel. When the Twins heard where they had left the body they went mad. The corpse was on the doorstep of Freddie Foreman, a great friend and associate. Some phone calls were made and the body was swiftly moved before it could be found. It has never been found to this day. Freddie Foreman, after many years, has admitted to helping in the disposal of Jack's body and is probably the best qualified to point you in the right direction'
Did Reggie intend to kill McVitie? If he did then it seems strange that he should surround himself with so many witnesses.
How come the gun jammed? Did Reg know and only used the gun to frighten Jack? Did Reggie eventually stab McVitie because he fought back? Or had he intended to kill Jack all along? Only Reggie knows the answer to that.