Kray twinsRonald Kray (1933 - 1995) and Reginald Kray (1933 - 2000) were twin brothers, and the foremost organised crime leaders in London in the 1960s. Ron was the dominant twin, and a psychopath.
In 1939, they moved to Vallance Road, Bethnal Green. Their father was called up early in World War II, but deserted. The twins saw little of their father during the war years, and grew very close to their mother. The frequent presence of Military Police hardened an already pronounced anti-authoritarian attitude in Ron and Reg, who were both to desert from the army later in life.
The influence of their grandfather, Jimmy 'Cannonball' Lee, led both boys into amateur boxing, at that time a popular pursuit for working class children in the East End. An element of competition between them spurred them on, and they achieved some success as professional fighters.
Unfortunately, the fighting didn't stop at the edge of the ring, and the Kray twins quickly became famous for their gang of roughs and the mayhem they caused. They narrowly escaped probation and/or prison several times, and then, in 1951, they were called up for National Service. They deserted, and were sent to a military prison in Somerset for the duration of their service.
Their boxing careers over, the boys turned to crime on discharge, buying a seedy club in Bethnal Green, and commencing several protection 'rackets'. By the end of the 1950s, the Krays were involved in hijacking, armed robbery and arson, through which means they acquired a small empire of clubs and other properties.
In the 1960s, they were well placed, as prosperous night-club owners, to be a part of the 'swinging' London scene. A large part of their fame is due to their non-criminal activities as figures on the celebrity circuit, being photographed by David Bailey on more than one occasion. They came into the public eye, however, when Ron's homosexual friendship with Lord Boothby, a Conservative peer, was alluded to in a tabloid expose.
Their criminal activities continued, however, behind the scenes. In 1967, Reg was persuaded by his brother to kill Jack 'the Hat' McVitie, an unimportant member of the Kray gang who had stepped out of line. Although this wasn't the first murder the twins had committed. They were also implicated in the deaths of Frank Mitchell and George Cornell, the latter being shot at the notorious Blind Beggar pub by Ronnie in 1966. This latest murder, however, led Inspector Leonard 'Nipper' Read of Scotland Yard right to the twins, and he arrested them early in 1968. Their reign of intimidation over, it was relatively easy to gain a conviction, and both were sentenced to Life imprisonment.
There was a long-running campaign, with much celebrity support, to have the twins released from prison, but successive Home Secretaries vetoed the idea, and Ron died in prison. Reg was a different story however as he was freed on 26 August 2000 on compassionate grounds as a result of unopearable cancer. On 1 October 2000 Reg Kray died a free man.
They were the subject of feature film (The Krays, 1990), and there are many books about their reign of terror, amongst the best of which is The Profession of Violence by John Pearson.