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Inside the Firm
The Untold Story of the Kray's Reign of Terror
By Tony Lambrianou, Carol Clerk
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 1991 Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk
All rights reserved.
DYING BY THE SWORD
'Ronnie, you're wanted.
Ronnie Kray turned round to face the screw, a principal officer, who had just walked in behind us. Only a minute earlier, we had been escorted out to the toilet from the cell at the Old Bailey where we were waiting to be called up for sentence.
He was in the prime of his life, Ronnie, a striking figure with his jet-black hair and usual immaculate dress: a blue suit, crisp white shirt, blue tie and black shoes. He took a drag on his fag, always a Player, threw it on the floor, stamped on it and said, 'Here I go, Tony. The first man ever to get a forty-year recommendation.'
As I looked back, he was walking away, out of the toilet. His feet were clipping the floor as though he was marching. I went back to the cell and told the others, 'They've just taken Ron up.' It was beginning.
If Reggie Kray was on edge, he was trying not to show it. He said, 'Sit down, Tony, I'll give you a massage.' It's an old boxing trick. To have your neck and shoulders massaged helps to ease tension.
I remember Charlie Kray lighting a cigarette while my brother Chris stood quietly in thought and Ronnie Bender, the joker of the pack, just smiled. Even under pressure like this, he did his best to keep everyone's spirits up.
I was thinking, 'Well, look, I'm twenty-six, I'm the youngest. If anyone's going to survive, I'm going to be the one. At least I've got half a chance.' I thought of my daughter, and wondered how old she would be when I got out. How old would my son be? Could my marriage survive? Would I ever see my father again in freedom?
In the back of my mind I kept hoping for the best, but I knew in my heart what we were up against. During the trial itself, in reply to questions from our QCs, the judge had frequently said, 'No doubt these men will be taken to a higher court where the matter can be dealt with.' What he meant was, 'In my eyes you're already convicted, so the Court of Appeal can sort this out.' I knew I was going down.
We heard Ronnie marching back and Ian Barrie's name being called out. Ian, a big, thick-set Scotsman with short, fair hair, punched his fist into his hand and walked out of the cell door as Ronnie walked in.
For a moment no one uttered a word. Then Reggie and Charlie said together: 'Well, what did you get?'
'Oh, only a thirty,' Ronnie replied. 'I'm glad all that's over.' And he carried on smoking a fag as if nothing had happened. Ian Barrie came back as Reggie's name was called. Ian leaned stiffly against a wall and closed his eyes: 'Twenty recommendation.'
Back came Reggie, who seemed more concerned about his concurrent sentence than the main term. I thought, 'God almighty, he's got thirty years and he's worrying about the ten.' By now I was a bit edgy because Chris had gone up and his sentence would probably indicate what I could expect.
When he returned, he said, 'Life and a fifteen rec.' He added: 'You're going to get a twenty here, Tony, watch it.'
I said, 'Thanks ... thanks for that.' With his words ringing in my ears, I was called into court and went up the stairs to the dock. It was like walking down a V-shaped funnel with a chair at the end, and eight screws on either side of it who absolutely dwarfed me. I was told to sit in the chair. There was dead silence.
I was trying to look around the court but at the same time appear inconspicuous. 'It's nothing to do with me....'
The room was crowded: it was like being in the middle of a circus. There were celebrities and high-ranking coppers and politicians galore. Nipper Read, John du Rose, Frank Cater and Harry Mooney, the officers in charge of the investigation leading to our arrests, were sitting in the well of the court beside the prosecuting counsel, listening to the judge but looking at me. Sir George Younger, the Assistant Chief Commissioner for Crime at Scotland Yard, was there too. Glancing to my right, I saw my brother Jimmy, my father, my wife and old Charlie Kray, the twins' dad, leaning over. I saw Micky Duff, the boxing promoter, who smiled slightly, actors Charlton Heston and Richard Greene, and a lot of people who looked as though they were titled. On my left, the press area was jam-packed. I remember my eyes resting on John Pearson, who later wrote A Profession of Violence, the best-selling book about the Kray gang. A couple of people were drawing.
My QC, James Ross, jumped up and tried to urge the judge not to give me a recommendation because of the ages of my kids and my father. He said, 'This man has a wife and two children, one of whom was born on remand....'
The judge snapped, 'I don't think there's any need to go into this. We've heard all we want to hear, Mr Ross. You can sit down.'
Then, turning to me, he said: 'The decision against you, in my view, was the right finding of guilt. You'll go to prison for a very long spell indeed, for life, and I recommend that you be detained for a period of not less than fifteen years.'
Everybody was staring at me, to see how I'd take it. The police were waiting for a reaction from the dock. I went to say something, but thought better of it. All I did was look up to where my family was sitting, and wink. Back in the cell I told the others what had happened, and I felt a relief it was all over.
Next one up was Ronnie Bender, who came back bitterly complaining about his 'life and recommended twenty', which he didn't deserve in a million years. He had been given the blame for a lot of things he didn't do. But before long he was back in full control, looking for the light at the end of the tunnel as he had been throughout the trial. A tall, broad man with fair hair in a college-boy cut, he had been described by one newspaper as having 'the looks of a pop star', which tickled him.
Charlie went out and got a ten. Earlier, he'd seemed happy enough. I think he'd been looking at four years, maybe even an acquittal. Now he was going away for a long time for helping to dispose of a body he'd never even seen. This, combined with the fact that we'd all been lifed off, certainly quietened him down. Ronnie looked at him as though nothing had happened.
Fred Foreman came back after also getting a ten. He said: 'They took a fucking right liberty.' But apart from an initial look of disbelief, he showed no emotion and said no more about it. Fred has been accused of more things he never did than any other man in British criminal history, probably because of his reputation and his association with and loyalty to known criminals. Yet I've always found him a very good friend, a gentle man, a man with a heart, very well liked and respected. Poor Freddie got ten years for nothing, same as Charlie.
The last one to be sentenced was Connie Whitehead, who received seven years over McVitie. A fairly small man with thinning hair and pointy features, he'd been jumpy before he went out there, although he was a nervous character anyway. When he came back, he looked very uncomfortable indeed.
Reggie said to me: 'If he starts complaining, I'm going to fucking hit him on the chin.'
And Ronnie told Whitehead, 'I don't want none of your fucking lip, shut your mouth. Seven years ...'
Feelings were running high against Connie Whitehead. The twins hated him. His name came up regularly throughout the evidence in the Cornell case, yet he wasn't charged with any offence. He was, however, convicted as an accessory to the McVitie murder.
He kept saying to us, 'I don't know what you mean, they didn't question me about it.' We're talking about a murder!
I remember Reggie saying, 'He's definitely done us up.' And all the way through our period on remand, Connie had dreaded ever being put in a cell with Ronnie Kray. Ronnie knew that, and he used to shout, 'You're with me tonight, Whitehead!'
The tenth sentence handed out that day was to Albert Donaghue, who didn't appear in the dock with us. He was of Irish descent, a very big, very quiet man, who had been around the twins for several years. Of all the people in the firm, Donaghue was the last person I would have expected to go against us. I could not believe it when he went the other way. He was held and sentenced separately from the rest of us, like various other ex-associates who had decided to give evidence against us to the police.
As we sat in that cell, the nine of us, I thought about the sentences and about something which had happened six weeks earlier. I was having a shower one Saturday morning in the maximum security block in Brixton, where we were being kept on remand. Freddie Foreman was with me. He said: 'I'm going to show you something.' He handed me a slip of paper, and written on it were two thirties, two twenties, two fifteens and two tens. Had anybody else given me that piece of paper I would have thrown it away, but because it was Fred I had to take seriously what was being suggested to me. Was it just coincidence that those were exactly the sentences we got? I believe he got that information from a very good source and that our sentences were handed down from somewhere other, higher, than the court.
After sentencing we were taken away from the Old Bailey in a police coach, and the crowds outside had grown even bigger than they had been when we arrived. It was sheer chaos. News of the sentences was being flashed on television, everybody was waving and the security was incredible. We had a massive police presence. There were plain clothes detectives with radios, armed police, dog handlers, motorbikes and patrol vans.
The coach was driving Chris, Ian, Ronnie Bender, Connie Whitehead and myself to Wandsworth to begin our sentences, and taking Reggie, Ronnie, Charlie and Freddie Foreman back to Brixton to be further remanded pending the Frank The Mad Axeman Mitchell murder trial. On the way my brother started singing. I was saying, 'What are you singing about?', and there's Ronnie Bender going, 'We've got to start somewhere.'
Wandsworth Prison is called the Hate Factory. It's a hard prison. We should drop a bomb on it and wipe it from the face of the earth, only it would leave a very ugly scar.
Chris and Ronnie Bender had been on remand there while the rest of us were in Brixton. The Governor of Wandsworth at that time was Mr Beastie, who was known as The Beast. One day Chris walked past a strongbox, a high-security cell, and saw a geezer hanging in it. He said to the Governor, 'I think somebody's been murdered.'
The Beast said, 'Listen here, Mr Lambrianou, you'd better thank your lucky stars it's not you. Now get out of here. I don't want to see you again.'
When we arrived at Wandsworth, I could not believe my eyes. We drove in the gates and there were no cons to be seen, only screws. About three hundred of them. They were everywhere. It would have been nothing to be ashamed of to say we were frightened, five of us standing in the yard with that number waiting for us. They wanted to kill you in that nick, but on this occasion they didn't try.
As soon as you enter a prison, there are three things you have to do. You sign for your property, you see the Governor and you see a doctor, who is supposed to give you a medical check but is usually reading The Sporting Life.
We were Category A prisoners, so we had to wear prison uniforms, complete with a yellow patch, which meant you were an escape risk and could be quickly spotted at all times. I was taken to a cell in E Wing, right opposite the topping shed, the only gallows in existence today. Chris was put on D Wing, with Ian Barrie and Connie Whitehead, and Ronnie Bender was taken to the prison hospital, which was on my wing, for observation – not an unusual occurrence for a lifer.
My cell was next to the office of the PO, the Principal Officer. A screw was placed on full alert outside my cell twenty-four hours a day. My clothes were taken off me before I was locked in the cell for the night – banged up, we called it – and kept on a chair outside. A red light was glowing, and it would be kept on all day and night from then on.
At seven-thirty that evening, the door opened. Standing in front of me was the canteen screw with the canteen orderly. I was given half an ounce of tobacco, papers and matches, and informed that the cost would be taken back from me the week before I was released, which I found highly amusing. I signed the paper and wrote something like 'the year 2000' on it.
I lay on that bed and didn't know what to think. How do you start a life sentence? It's a very hard thing to accept. You can't visualise doing it. You cannot see an end.
Then I thought about Chris and what he must be going through. He was now doing life and a fifteen-year recommendation for absolutely nothing. How would he cope with that? I had to live with the thought that my brother went down for something he never did. To this day, he has never complained about it. I stood accused and I admit my part. I never murdered anyone, but I was there, and I played a leading role afterwards. I'm not proud of it. I deserved to be punished because a man lost his life and nothing can ever bring that back. But I had watched my brother, who was innocent, take it on the chin. The police, the prison authorities, the Home Office, MPs, lawyers and other criminals all knew from the beginning that Chris had nothing to do with it.
The whole case against Chris and me was based on one question: did we know that Jack The Hat was going to be killed? The case against Chris was that I had told him. But I had said nothing to Chris. All I did was invite him to a party. For my part, I thought that Jack was going to get a beating, which he deserved. I didn't know he was going to be murdered; I don't think Reggie Kray knew he was going to be murdered.
I stayed awake through my first night in Wandsworth and I thought back to the McVitie murder, how Reggie had stabbed him to death, how I had wound up in this position. I thought of Jack The Hat, because if he had somehow known what happened afterwards he would have been the first person to jump up and say, 'They shouldn't be doing that for me.' He would have turned over in his grave. He couldn't stand police, prison officers, anyone in authority – just like the rest of us. They were the enemy.
I didn't blame the twins for my predicament, because the choice was mine. My attitude to life was always this: if you live by the sword, you have to be prepared to die by the sword. If Jack The Hat had wanted to go out of this world, that's the way he would have chosen to do it.
It was, nevertheless, a ghastly thing to happen to anybody. It was horrifying. It will live with me for the rest of my life.
It happened on Saturday, 28 October 1967, a day when Chris and I had arranged to meet two brothers called Alan and Ray Mills to introduce them to the twins. The Mills brothers were from a respected family in west London. We had friends all over the city and because of our rivalry with the Richardson gang, who were running a major operation south of the river, it was nice to have allies.
Ray Mills was very friendly with one of the hardest men in London, Pretty Boy Roy Shaw. He was a handful. Frank Warren, who went on to become a well-known boxing promoter, originally made his name through promoting fights with Shawey. At this time Roy was in a maximum-security mental hospital. He and three other men had got fifteen years each for armed robbery on a security van. Roy Shaw did the three guards on his own. A couple of years after being sentenced, he was found insane and sent to Broadmoor. Now Shawey wanted the twins to send something to him there, so he had contacted Ray Mills, who in turn had got in touch with Chris.
We met the Mills brothers at seven o'clock in a pub called the White Bear in Aldgate. I made a phone call to find out where the twins were, and we then went on to the Carpenters Arms, the Krays' own pub in Bethnal Green.
We arrived to find Ronnie and Reggie with their Mum and Dad, Violet and old man Charlie. There was young Charlie and his wife Dolly, Ronnie Bender, Albert Donaghue, Connie Whitehead, Scotch Jack Dickson, Sammy Lederman, Harry Jew Boy and Ronnie Hart, a cousin of the twins. A few girls were there too – Blonde Vicky, who eventually married Ronnie Hart, Reggie's girlfriend Carol Thompson, and Bubbles, who was the girlfriend of Frankie Shea, Reggie's brother-in-law, but who went out with Ronnie Bender in the end.
Everyone was on good form. Ronnie shook hands with the Mills brothers and then, as usual, left Reggie to do the talking. Ronnie was quite happy standing to one side, looking smart with a gold chain on his waistcoat. The men always wore a three-piece. Everyone was drinking, everyone was happy and Reggie was chattery. Lovely. Come eleven o'clock, Reg said, 'We're going for a meal, me and Carol.' As far as I knew, Ronnie was going home.
Chris and I took the Mills brothers to the Regency Club in Stoke Newington, a place they had heard of and wanted to see. It was run by the Barry brothers, Johnny and Tony, who were paying protection money. The Regency had three clubs in one – the top part, the middle part and our private club downstairs. We stayed in the main, middle bar until midnight and then went for a private drink.
Excerpted from Inside the Firm by Tony Lambrianou, Carol Clerk. Copyright © 1991 Tony Lambrianou and Carol Clerk. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
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