Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Kray Twins: Brothers in Arms

Mobbed Up

Fifty-six days after they had been arrested, the twins were free again. Reggie and Frances were now back together and he had bought her an engagement ring. He obviously loved her, and she made herself fall in love with him. They decided to get married, and on April 20th, 1965, at St James's Church in Bethnal Green, they swore their vows at what was to be the East End wedding of the year.

David Bailey, the ubiquitous photographer of the swinging sixties, was there to record the images for posterity. It was a classic cockney wedding. The ostentation, the Rollers double parked in the grimy street, the guests dolled up in their "Sunday Best," the celebrities smiling and waving at the crowds. The photographer moved through his montage snapping away and recording for posterity the images — brother Charlie, good-looking, tall and sharp as a razor; his sleek wife Dolly stiffly smiling at the in-laws she hated; the Sheas — father Frank, son Frankie and mother Elsie in a black, velvet dress, which caused Reggie considerable distress, and which he never forgave her for wearing to his wedding.

Reggie & Frances Kray
Reggie & Frances Kray

Reggie looked nervously at the camera, often with a pained expression on his face as though he had just been caught with his fingers in the till, and Frances, her bouffant hair swept back off her cherub-like face looked the perfect bride. She stared into the lens with the innocence of youth, oblivious of everything but the magic moments that she would treasure for the rest of her short life. Toasting the bridal couple, Ronnie stared into space with an inscrutable expression, perhaps disbelieving or not comprehending the fact that his consanguineous link is broken, and that he has at last lost his twin half to someone else.

Reggie and Frances flew to Athens for their honeymoon. When they returned, he rented an expensive apartment off Lancaster Gate in the West End. But after a while, they both felt lonely away from their natural environment, and so Reggie found a place in Cedra Court, directly below the place where Ronnie was living.

Frances found life living in the shadow of Ronnie oppressive. Her husband was spending more time with his brother than with her. They still wined and dined at the best places and sometimes with noted people, such as Judy Garland and George Raft. But most times they socialised with other criminals and their partners. Her life was orderly but it was also ordered by Reggie. He would not let her work; she had a car, but couldn't drive it and Reggie would not let her have lessons. If she went shopping "up West" there was always someone from The Firm to accompany her and watch over her.

Eventually she broke under the strain and left Reggie to move back in with her parents.

They had been together eight weeks. That was all there was going to be.

For a while, the twins had an arrangement working in conjunction with some of the American Mafia dons. The previous year, Ronnie had a lengthy meeting at the London Hilton, in Park Lane, with Angelo Bruno, the head of the Philadelphia crime family. In due course they had meetings with Anthony "Tony Ducks" Corallo a powerful capo or crew boss who represented the Lucchese crime family, one of the powerful Mafia groups that dominated New York.

An apocryphal story has it, that on one of his visits, Corallo offered Charlie a "small" gift as a gesture of good will, from Thomas Lucchese. Charlie, in a patronising way told Corallo gifts weren't necessary, only friendship and co-operation. The mobster accordingly, went back to New York with a suitcase containing $50,000. The twins became good friends with Joseph Pagano, a top earning soldier in the Genovese crime group, possibly the biggest and most powerful of the five Mafia families that controlled organized crime in New York.

A colourful character, born in 1928, Pagano had a criminal record dating back to 1946. A friend and associate of Joseph Valachi, the first member to inform on the Mafia, Pagano had been inducted in the Genovese family in 1954. He was a major earner involved in drugs, loan-sharking, gambling and the control of legitimate businesses. His connection to the famous New York Copacabana Club and other such places was probably the way the twins initially connected to him.

They also met up and worked with Frank "Punchy" Illiano, who although connected to the Colombo crime family, eventually became one of the present day administration running the Genovese's.

With gambling now legalized in England, these people were looking for ways to move in and capitalise on the opportunities. One of the biggest was the running of "junkets," packaged air trips from major US eastern seaboard cities that would bring in hundreds of gamblers anxious to try out their luck in a different environment. The twins could smooth the way and provided the necessary services to make sure everything was well oiled.

On April 15th 1965, a raid took place on The Royal Bank of Canada in Montreal. Another occurred in May on a bank in Ontario. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of negotiable bonds were stolen.

Through their contacts in the American Mafia, the twins were offered a share of these, heavily discounted of course. In July, Payne flew to Montreal and purchased a part of this stolen shipment at a price 25% of their face value. The twins disposed of them in England, and began a lucrative traffic in these instruments, which in due course brought them into contact with Alan B. Cooper.

A thirty-six-year-old American businessman with interests in insurance and a private bank located off Wigmore Street, Marylebone, in the West End, he was a mystery man. He had rumoured links to gold smuggling rings in the Far East, arms dealing of a dubious nature and possible ties to American and British security agencies. The twins needed him to facilitate the registration of a particularly large batch of stolen Canadian government bonds. He agreed to help them if they would agree to be his ally. He was being strong-armed by a couple of gangsters from South London, and wanted Reggie and Ronnie to act as a buffer. They agreed.

The villains from south of the River Thames were Charlie and Eddie Richardson. The twins had first met up with them twelve years earlier, when they were all doing prison time in Shepton Mallett military prison in Somerset.

Cooper had many contacts in Europe, centred around Amsterdam, Zurich, Brussels and Geneva. Through them, he could offer the twins access into an international underworld. The brothers welcomed him with open arms.

Later in the year, Reggie's wife, Frances, started developing symptoms of a nervous breakdown, and started visiting the same Harley Street specialist, Dr Julius Silverstone, who looked after Ronnie. Perhaps she recognised the irony in the fact that this doctor was treating both her and the man she had come to loath above all others. It was hardly surprising she needed this attention. Her relationship with her husband had gone from the sublime to the ridiculous. Her marriage was now in a shambles and was having a pernicious effect on her mental health.

Most evenings, Reggie would return to his apartment, change into a fresh shirt and suit, and then drive to the home of the Sheas in Ormsby Street. They would not allow him into the house, and so he stood outside on the pavement, and talked to her as she leaned out of the second story bedroom window. Often, like some poignant and displaced Romeo and Juliet, these two poor, disjointed souls would spend the evening in conversation, semaphoring their anguish across an endless space of frustration and despair. By the end of October, she decided she wanted to annul the marriage, but although she discussed this, often, with her mother, she never got around to doing anything about it.

 

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