Mr Smiths and the Witchdoctor

On 7th of March 1966 a gangland battle took place at a club in Rushey Green, Catford. It was to see One man dead and many shot and injured.

There have been many accounts of what happened on that fateful night, but one thing was certain. It was the end of the Richardsons as underworld bosses.

Some have said that the Richardsons went to Mr Smiths to wipe out the Kray gang because they were getting too powerful. They had made many Mafia connections and were slowly eating into the Richardsons stronghold in the West End.

This doesn't really ring true. The Kray Twins and their Firm knew of the club but they never socialised there. If the Richardsons wanted to do battle with the Twins they would know where to find them and they would have been armed to the teeth.

The police claim that the fight was started by Harry Hayward and his mob to gain control of the club from the owners, Paddy McGrath and Owen Ratcliffe. Harry Hayward wasn't even in the club that night.

Frankie Fraser's account seems to be more plausible. He thinks that the fight occurred over a misunderstanding of why he and his friends were in the club that night.

He remembers that Mr Smiths was owned by two Mancunian (Manchester) club owners who had a string of clubs in the North of England but they wanted to break into the London scene.
They knew the club business all right but they couldn't handle the clientele that used Mr Smiths so they approached Billy Hill and Albert Dimes for their advice. Billy put them on to Frankie Fraser and Eddie Richardson. They had a meeting that day to discuss the terms of their contract. Part of the deal was that as well as providing bouncers to protect the club they would also supply them with gaming machines. When the deal was done they all went to the club for a celebration drink. Frank and Eddie couldn't stay too long because they had other business to attend to but the owners suggested that they should come back later for a meal and a few drinks.

Later that evening Frankie Fraser and Eddie Richardson came back to the club with Harry Rawlings and Ronnie Jeffreys, and by the end of the evening they were joined by more of the gang including Jimmy Moody and a friend of his.

Also in the club were Billy Hayward, Henry Botton, Peter Hennessey, Dickie Hart a member of the Firm, and some others, most of them known to Frank and Eddie.

More of the Richardson gang arrived later.

Billy Hayward thought that something was going down so he sent out for some weapons. He may have mistaken this gathering of the Richardsons as retribution for having an affair with the wife of Roy Porritt, Frank and Eddie's mechanic.

The fact that the Richardsons were not tooled up would lead us to believe that they were only at the club socialising.

At about 3.30 in the morning Billy Hayward and his mob were still sitting there. The club only had a license till 3am so the manager asked Eddie if he could have a word with them.

Eddie told them the situation and asked them to leave. Peter Hennessey took offence to this and started fighting with him. All of a sudden Dickie Hart took out a gun and began shooting all over the place. Pandemonium broke out. People were running, chairs were flying and shots were being fired.

Dickie Hart shot Harry Rawlings in the shoulder and he was bleeding profusely. Jimmy Moody and Ronnie Jeffreys were trying to get him out of the club while Frankie Fraser was trying to calm down Dickie Hart. Frank knocked the gun out of his hand but got shot in the leg in the process. Frank can't remember too much about what happened after that but Dickie Hart ended up on a mortuary slab and he and Eddie in a hospital bed.

Rumour has it that George Cornell was there that night and it was he who killed Hart but managed to escape before the police arrived.

Frankie Fraser was charged with the murder of Dickie Hart and was found not guilty. However he and Eddie were charged with Affray and received 5 years in prison.

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