The Kray Twins: Brothers in Arms
When Frances left hospital, she moved in with her brother Frankie and his wife who lived in a big block of apartments called Wimbourne Court. She was twenty-three, but was a much different person to the radiant bride, who had stood beaming beside Reggie as he cut the wedding cake, only a year before. She had lost weight, and become more a tired out waif than a bright, perky cockney girl. Reggie kept calling on her, promising to change his ways, determined that they could start again. On June 6th 1967, they went together and booked their holiday in Spain.
About noon the following day, her brother walked into her bedroom and found her dead in bed. On her third attempt, she had succeeded, this time with a massive dose of phenobarbitone. Reggie was inconsolable with grief. He blamed her parents and they blamed him. It was a lose-lose situation for them all.
Reggie and his brother organized the funeral, which turned out to be as big an event as his marriage. Flowers poured in from friends and allies throughout the London underworld. Reggie sent three wreaths, including a six-foot heart of scarlet roses pierced with an arrow of white carnations.
The burial ceremony at Chingford Cemetery was resonant with images and overtones of darkness and despair. The heavy overcast sky, the wreaths piled alongside the open grave; dark suited, sombre looking men paying their last respects, and everywhere, in the background, the presence of the law. Ronnie was absent. He was on the run again from a court case, this time as a witness in an extortion charge involving the police. So Reggie was left to grieve on his own, crying openly as his wife was lowered into her grave.
It was now Reggie's turn to sink down into a bottomless pit of despair and hate. He drank continually and became dangerous and mean. He brooded over his belief that his wife's death was the direct result of her family, and wanted to kill them. But the more he longed for relief through that route, the more he realised Frances would never forgive him.
As the weeks drifted away, Reggie went on a spree, shooting a man whom he considered had insulted his wife. Fortunately he was so drunk when he made the attempt, that he only wounded the victim. One night in a club in Highbury, he demanded money from a man called Freddie Fields, and when the man refused, Reggie shot him in the leg. He got into a fight with another man and ripped his face open with a knife.
All was not well within the organization. Two members, "Mad" Teddy Smith and a man called Frost disappeared and were never seen again. A man who decided to leave The Firm found a funeral wreath placed against the door of his house.
Ronnie continually brooded over the reticence his brother showed to actually kill someone. Reggie was happy to beat up and maim, but somehow always found a reason to pull back at the last minute. Ronnie could not understand this. Most people never dreamed of killing anyone. Ronnie seemed to dream of nothing else.
Reggie finally moved out of Ronnie's shadow and got his kill. He was a crook, which was hardly surprising. Gangsters rarely murder innocent victims; they almost always kill each other.
Jack "The Hat" McVitie was a typical East End villain. He stood six feet two, was strong as a bull and as tough as a rhinoceros. In 1959, he was serving time in Exeter Prison along with "Mad" Frankie Fraser and Jimmy Andrews (the man Cornel was visiting in hospital the night he was shot by Ronnie.) After a fracas with prison guards, McVitie was badly beaten by a group of wardens. In retaliation, Fraser felled the prison governor and Andrews decked the head prison officer. Fraser and Andrews finished up in hospital along with McVitie. The three all received multiple strokes of the lash for their indiscretion.
In the spring of 1967 "The Hat" was involved in a dispute with a gang of toughs and they smashed his hands with a crowbar. But once they healed, he was back brawling. He fuelled his temper and boosted his nerve with a mixture of alcohol and pep pills called 'black bombers.' He always wore a hat to cover a bald spot, apparently even in the bath. While he was generous and kind to children, he was less than perfect in the way he treated women. On one occasion he pushed a woman out of a moving car, and the fall broke her back.
He never belonged in The Firm, only to it, being used by the twins to carry out odd jobs and do the occasional bit of GBH (grievous bodily harm) to keep someone in line. He basically operated as a freelance robber.
In September, Ronnie became convinced that Leslie Payne was going to deal with the police to avoid a prosecution charge that was looming over him. Ronnie gave McVitie one hundred pounds and a handgun and told him to kill Payne. He promised a further four hundred pounds when the job was done.
McVitie never got around to the killing and refused to pay the deposit back, which caused Ronnie some earnest aggravation. Drunk and disorderly, McVitie staggered into the 211 Club in Balham, South London, one night and threatened to wreck the place. The owner happened to be Billy Foreman a good friend of the twins. This was another strike against McVitie. The final straw came when he brandished a sawn-off shotgun at the owners of the Regency Club, John and Tony Barry, who were associates of the twins. By this time Ronnie and Reggie were seriously upset by his actions.
On October 28th, 1967, the twins and many of their friends and associates were drinking at The Carpenters Arms, a local pub off the Vallance Road. Later that night, according to the local grapevine, there was a party going down at a house in Evering Road, Stoke Newington, about two miles up the road from Bethnal Green. The place belonged to a woman called 'Blonde Carol' Skinner, a thin, pale woman in her mid twenties, divorced with two small children. She lived with a man who worked for the Krays.
As the night unfolded, the sequence of events led unerringly, for McVitie, into a one way street with no way of escape.
That evening at the Carpenters Arms, Tony and Chris Lambrianou introduced two friends of theirs, also brothers, Tony and Alan Mills, to the twins. The Mills brothers were from Birmingham where Chris worked. He wasn't part of The Firm, but his brother was. The Lambrianou brothers went off to The Regency about 10 p.m. and there, met up with Ronnie Hart, a cousin of the twins, and McVitie. They stayed there drinking until late in the evening. Ronnie excused himself at some stage and left. The Lambrianou brothers were good friends of "The Hat" and when they suggested that they all go to the party, McVitie didn't hesitate to agree. The five men piled into a car and shortly before midnight arrived at the house.
Ronnie and Reggie had been there for about an hour, clearing away other guests. Along with the twins, there were two of Ronnie's pet boys, a man called Ronnie Bender and Ronnie Hart. As McVitie entered the room, Reggie walked up to him and raised a .32 semi-automatic pistol to his head and squeezed the trigger. The gun jammed. Ronnie, his face red and eyes bulging was screaming at McVitie. The Mills brothers fled from the room, as did the two young boys. Reggie was now grappling with McVitie, pushing and shoving him across the floor towards a window that opened onto a garden. McVitie tried desperately to squeeze through, but only got his head and shoulders outside, before the twins grabbed his legs and pulled him back inside.
His hat now gone, McVitie was standing in the room, sweat pouring down his face, looking terribly afraid.
"Why are you doing this, Reg?" he shouted.
"Kill him, kill him!" now snarled Ronnie.
Reggie grabbed a butchers knife from Bender and plunged it into McVitie's face, and then over and over again into the chest and stomach of the victim, finally impaling him through the throat into the floor. When McVitie was finally dead, his body was wrapped in some bedding and carried from the room and placed in Bender's car. Tony Lambrianou drove off, followed in another car by Bender and Tony's brother, Chris.
They were told to get rid of it in the East End but decided they were going to leave the body somewhere south of the Thames in the Richardson area, hoping blame for the killing would be laid at their door. When Bender contacted the twins and told them he had left the body in a car near a church called St Mary's, near the southern entrance to the Rotherhithe Tunnel in Bermondsey, they were concerned. Instead of the police tying in the killing to the Richardson Gang, they might link it to their friend Billy Foreman. They contacted their brother Charlie, who drove across to South London from Bethnal Green, and made arrangements with Ronnie Hart and Freddie Foreman, Billy's brother, to dispose of the body. It has never been found to this day.
Afterwards, Reggie said, "I did not regret it at the time and I don't regret it now. I have never felt a moment's regret."