Mugshot Mondays: Kray Twins by Linda
Young, fresh faces with a life ahead of them. You might think, “Oh look, here are two dorky twins that probably spent most of their days in some fancy prep school fulfilling their parents’ dream of becoming wealthy businessmen.” In reality, they are known as the “Godfathers” of Britain – the most mischievous set of carbon copies you’ll ever have the pleasure of learning about.
Ever hear the saying, “Blood is thicker than water”?
It applies in this situation.
The Kray (if the shoe fits, right?) twins wreaked havoc since their birth on October 24, 1933. Born 10 minutes apart, Ronald known as Ronnie and Reginald known as Reggie ended up running the show in organized crime in the East End of London during the 50’s and 60’s. At 3 years old, Ronnie and Reggie contracted diphtheria, an upper respiratory infection and shockingly survived. Then, at the age of only 9 years old, the twins got into a scuffle so bad that a head injury nearly almost took Ronnie’s life.
Imprisonment: The First Mugshots
In 1952, when they were just 19, the Royal Fusiliers called on the twins to do national service. After showing up for service, Ronnie and Reggie decided to leave moments after. They were chased by the army corporal in command which ended up being short lived when Ronnie sent a seriously injuring sucker punch to his chin. They were arrested the next day but not without a fight. The Kray twins assaulted their arresting police constable before even getting to prison.
During their nine months in jail, their despicable behavior led them to receive dishonorable discharges from the Army and set the precedent for how these twins settled their scores. The exercise area of the prison was dominated by the twins who threw tantrums, dumped their toilet bucket over a sergeant, poured hot tea on a guard, handcuffed another guard to their prison bars, burned their bedding and even assaulted a guard with a china vase during an escape attempt.
After their stint in jail, Ronnie and Reggie owned a local nightclub where they started many protection rackets which is when a criminal group provides protection for businesses with the use of violence and other illegalities. In 1957, The Firm, the official name of their gang, was established. With the 1950’s coming to a close, the twins managed to acquire some clubs and properties through hijacking, armed robbery and arson.
The Swinging Sixties
“They were the best years of our lives. They called them the swinging sixties. The Beatles and the Rolling Stones were rulers of pop music, Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world… and me and my brother ruled London. We were fucking untouchable.” – Ronnie Kray (autobiography)
In the 1960’s Ronnie and Reggie Kray were seen more as celebrities than the criminals that they truly were. Being charismatic nightclub owners during the Swinging London scene, they had a vast social scene including having celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Diana Dors, Barbara Windsor and George Raft do shows at their club. The twins were investigated on numerous occasions by the police for their violent nature but witnesses tended to be too scared or threatened to testify against them.
With speculation of the twins’ violence came the rumors involving murder. One in particular was when Ronnie and Reggie decide to help out an old comrade that they met in prison. Frank Mitchell, also known as “The Mad Axeman” was a large man with a mental disorder. The Krays helped Frank escape from Dartmoor in hopes that the act would bring attention to his case and force authorities to take a closer look. After the escape, the twins kept Frank at a friend’s flat. Mitchell began to become restless and to put it bluntly, began to work the Krays last nerves. After all, if he was found, he might have snitched about the twins’ favor and cause more trouble than intended. Frank Mitchell disappeared and the body was never found. Although the twins were acquitted of any charges, it was later said that Mitchell was shot and dumped at sea.
Getting Carried Away
There were two murders that ultimately got the Kray twins put away for life. By this point, the twins started to get a God Complex thinking they were invincible. George Cornell was killed by Ronnie Kray in plain sight at the Blind Beggar Pub on March 9, 1966. His reason? To avenge the death of a member from The Firm’s death, Richard Hart. Ronnie believed Cornell was a part of his murder. Because of the looming intimidation the Kray twins carried, no witnesses came forward or would cooperate with officials.
The Krays celebrity status and so called “legitimate” businesses kept them afloat allowing them to hide their criminal activities. From an early age, Ronnie was believed to suffer from paranoid schizophrenia. He was able to encourage Reggie to kill Jack “the Hat” McVitie. McVitie was a minor member of The Firm who never delivered on a paid contract to him in advance to kill Leslie Payne. They invitied McVitie to a “party” and upon entering the basement flat, Reggie pointed the gun at his head. The gun malfunctioned and wouldn’t discharge. In a different attempt, Reggie grabbed McVitie and began to stab him viciously. Reggie stabbed Jack McVitie in the face, twisted the blade into his neck, and continuously in the stomach. Later on, it was revealed that McVitie’s liver actually came out during the stabbing and it was flushed down the toilet. His body was never found.
Meanwhile, Leonard “Nipper” Read had been investigating the twins since 1964 and had been given the task to bring them down. Finally, in 1967, Read had enough evidence to at least put the twins away. Upon the Krays’ capture, witnesses felt safe enough to start coming forward. Both of the brothers were convicted and given life sentences.
Ronnie was deemed insane and spent the rest of his days in Broadmoor hospital where he died of a heart attack on March 17, 1995. Reggie was released from incarceration at Wayland in 2000 for compassionate grounds due to inoperable bladder cancer. He died in his sleep on October 1, 2000. The Kray twins are buried beside each other.