Following the death of gangster and author Dave Courtney, the activities of the Kray twins have renewed interest online.
Ronnie and Reggie Kray gained notoriety for their ruthless East End crime empire during the 1950s and 1960s. Born on October 24, 1933, in Haggerston, East London, the identical twins were only ten minutes apart.
Their parents, Charles David Kray and Violet Annie Lee, raised them alongside their brother Charles in the East End. Unfortunately, their sister Violet, born in 1929, passed away during infancy. Their father, Charles, was a second-hand clothes dealer who evaded military service by going on the run.
Who were the Kray twins?
The Kray twins, Ronald “Ronnie” Kray and Reginald “Reggie” Kray, were notorious British gangsters and organized crime figures in London during the 1950s and 1960s. Born on October 24, 1933, in London’s East End, these identical twins were deeply involved in a range of criminal activities, such as protection rackets, extortion, and violent crimes.
Their notoriety stemmed from their extensive participation in organized crime, which included high-profile acts like armed robberies and murders. To conceal their illicit operations, the Krays cleverly utilized nightclubs and bars in London as fronts.
Their criminal empire and influence extended far beyond their local territory, establishing them as infamous figures within the British criminal underworld. Ronnie Kray was renowned for his violent and unpredictable nature, while Reggie Kray was often perceived as the more stable and business-oriented sibling.
However, their criminal endeavors eventually attracted the attention of law enforcement, leading to their apprehension and subsequent imprisonment. In 1969, both Ronnie and Reggie Kray were convicted of murder and handed life sentences. They were incarcerated in separate prisons, with Ronnie passing away in 1995.
Reggie Kray, on the other hand, was granted compassionate release in 2000, shortly before his own demise. The lives and criminal exploits of the Kray twins have been extensively documented in numerous books, films, and documentaries, solidifying their enduring notoriety in British criminal history.
Kray twins activities explored
Encouraged by their maternal grandfather Jimmy “Cannonball” Lee, amateur boxing became a common pastime for the working-class twins. Fuelled by sibling rivalry, they never lost a match before turning professional at 19. Ronnie was known to be the more aggressive of the two, often getting into street fights as a teenager.
From the outset, the twins clashed with authority, including the Army, which they did their best to avoid, just like their father. In 1952, they began their national service, but their wild behaviour proved too much for the military.
They managed to get a dishonourable discharge by assaulting the corporal in charge, several police officers, throwing tantrums, dumping their latrine bucket over a sergeant, and even handcuffing a guard to their prison bars. With a criminal record, their boxing careers came to an abrupt end, and they turned to a life of crime.
The twins became household names in 1964 when the Sunday Mirror published an expose insinuating that Ronnie had a sexual relationship with Conservative politician Lord Boothby. Although no names were printed, the twins threatened to sue the newspaper with the help of Labour Party leader Harold Wilson’s solicitor Arnold Goodman.
What crimes did the Kray twins commit?
During the early 1950s, the brothers embarked on their criminal enterprise known as The Firm, which would significantly influence their illicit endeavors. Operating under The Firm’s umbrella, they engaged in a range of unlawful activities including armed robberies, arson, protection rackets, assaults, and even murder for nearly two decades.
Within The Firm, their brother Charlie played a pivotal role, utilizing his astute business acumen to drive the operations forward. Meanwhile, the twins assumed the role of the public face of The Firm, representing the organization to the outside world. One of their initial strategic moves involved the acquisition of a dilapidated snooker club in Mile End.
It was within this establishment that they established various protection rackets, showcasing their hands-on approach to conducting business. However, their direct involvement in these activities eventually led to legal troubles, with Ronnie being convicted of grievous bodily harm in the late 1950s.
In the 1960s, the brothers relocated to the prestigious West End, where they assumed control of a gambling club named Esmerelda’s Barn, situated in Knightsbridge.
This venture allowed them to immerse themselves in the vibrant atmosphere of Swinging London, and they were widely regarded as prosperous nightclub owners. To further enhance the club’s reputation, they even managed to persuade a peer to join their board, providing a veneer of respectability.
As proprietors of Esmerelda’s Barn, the twins swiftly ascended to celebrity status, frequently mingling with notable figures such as lords, Members of Parliament, socialites, and renowned personalities like Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.