The Swinging Sixties

At the start of the 60's all the brothers were together again, Ron was getting back to his old self, the Firm had truly established itself, business was good and they were making inroads into the West End gambling and club scene.

Their first toehold in this area was an upmarket gaming club called Esmeraldas. It was fronted by Lord Effingham, the sixth Earl of Effingham. He was paid by the Krays to welcome the customers as they entered the club.

They also invested a lot of their own money in a seaside development in a place called Enugu in Nigeria. It was set up by their business manager Leslie Payne and Ernest Shinwell, son of Manny Shinwell, a labour MP. The Initial introduction into the project took place between Ronnie, a man called Leslie Holt and Lord Boothby, a Peer of The Realm. In the end the project collapsed and the money disappeared.

Later, Leslie Holt was to die under very strange circumstances and another disappeared never to be seen again.

Ronnie Kray met Lord Boothby through one of the many gay parties that they both attended. He realised he was gay at a very early age when he fell in love with a boy across the road from where he lived. He didn't hide his sexuality but it wasn't until the sexual freedom of the sixties that it became widely known.

The Krays were mixing with some very influential people and, it was thought, by some, that they were getting too powerful. They were being watched constantly by the Authorities.

One of the reasons for their eventual downfall was their love of publicity. Ronnie in particular loved being photographed with celebrities and sports stars, He wanted to display himself as the stereotypical American Gangster as portrayed by James Cagney and George Raft in the American films of the 50's and 60's. The difference between The Krays and their real life, American counterparts, the Mafia, is that they kept a low profile and let others do their dirty work.

In 1965 the Twins were arrested for demanding money with menaces from a man called Hew McGowan, the owner of a club called the Hideaway. They were remanded in custody to Brixton prison.

Their influence was so wide reaching that questions were asked in the House of Lords as to how long they were going to keep the Twins locked up. These questions, asked by Lord Boothby, caused a sensation. When they went to court they were cleared of all charges.

In less than a month they owned the Hideaway club and changed the name to El Morocco.

Also in April, 1965, Reggie married the love of his life, Francis Shea, the sister of his good friend Frank. She was twenty one years old. It was a marriage which would end in disaster. 8 months later they were living apart much to Reggie's disappointment.

Ronnie and Reggie were now forging links with the Mafia. They went to America for a week and met their top men. Although they made some very useful connections on their trip, they didn't do as much business as they thought they would. They did however, provide protection, on behalf of the Mafia, for many American celebrities visiting or performing in England. And protected their gambling interests in the West End as well as entertaining them when they came to London..

The Krays shared control of London with the Richardson gang from South London. The main body of the Richardson gang consisted of, brothers, Charlie and Eddie, 'Mad' Frankie Fraser and George Cornell. They were already entrenched in the West End, supplying most of the clubs with one armed bandits, and the Krays wanted in.

In March 1966 a gun battle took place in a club called Mr Smiths in Rushey Green. It has been said that The Richardson gang went there with the intentions of wiping out the Krays. There was only one member of the Kray gang present. He was shot dead. Frankie Fraser was shot in the hip and Eddie was shot in the backside. They were taken to hospital and on their release they were charged with affray and sentenced to 5 years in prison. Frankie Fraser was originally charged with the murder of Dickie Hart but was found not guilty.

It has also been said that it was George Cornell who actually killed Dickie Hart but managed to escape before the police arrived, and that was one of the reasons why, on the 9th of April 1966, Ronnie Kray walked into the Blind Beggar public house and shot him in the head.

Ronnie laughed when he recounted the story of how he had killed that 'sadistic slag' Cornell.

Some time after the killing of George Cornell, the Twins were arrested and put on an identification parade. The witnesses failed to pick them out and they were duly released.

At the end of 1966, the Twins hatched a plot to free Frank Mitchell, the Mad Axeman. They had both met him on previous occasions in Wandsworth prison. He was serving a short term in prison when he escaped and broke into an old couple's house and held them hostage with an axe that he found. He was recaptured and sentenced to life without any release date.

It was decided that they would break him out of prison and keep him out long enough for the newspapers to run the story with the promise of his case being investigated. He would then give himself up and return to prison.

He was sprung from Dartmoor by Albert Donoghue and Billy Williams, two of the Kray Firm. However there was no investigation and the hunt for Mitchell continued.

Frank Mitchell was subsequently killed on or about the 23rd of December, 1966. Reggie cried when he heard the news of Mitchell's death. The Twins were later charged with his murder.

At the beginning of 1967 things were looking up for the Krays and Reggie in particular. By June of that year, it looked as if he was getting back together with his wife Frances. However he didn't know that Frances was very ill. She had been mentally unstable before they married but the break-up, masterminded by her parents, caused her to have a mental breakdown. When she came out of hospital Reggie arranged for the two of them to go on holiday. The strain of the constant battles between her parents and Reg, who they disliked intensely, took it's toll. On the day they were to leave for Ibiza she took an overdose of pills and died.

Reggie was heartbroken. He went into a deep depression for months. He was drinking all the time and was crazy with grief. It was through this very traumatic period in his life that he killed Jack 'The Hat' McVitie. Ron was always boasting about what he did to Cornell and it has been suggested by some, that he goaded Reg into killing McVitie. Reg has denied that his brother influenced him in any way but this was totally out of character for Reg, who under normal circumstances was always in control of his actions.

Jack 'The Hat' McVitie, so called because he would never take the hat off that was covering his bald patch, worked for the Twins doing small little jobs, nothing for him to lay claim as being part of the Firm. He was a dangerous man. He wasn't afraid of the Twins in any way and was often heard slagging them off. He was a drunkard, took drugs and beat up women. It was rumoured that he was paid to kill Leslie Payne, the Twins one time business manager, and that he took the money and never fulfilled the contract. He had been warned by Reg on numerous occasions about his attitude but to no avail.

Jack was lured to a party in Evering Road, Stoke Newington, where he was stabbed to death by Reg Kray.

This last action proved to be the end of the Krays and the Firm. While the authorities let them get on with it in the past they had now gone 'beyond the accepted parameters' and had to be stopped at all costs.

 

 

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