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The Krays and Me
By Charles Bronson, Stephen Richards
John Blake Publishing LtdCopyright © 2004 Charles Bronson and Stephen Richards
All rights reserved.
THE BEGINNING OF THE END
Let me tell you a fact, if you read all the Krays' books, you'll notice most of them have different stories about the same event. Take Frank Mitchell's murder and the claims made as to how his body was disposed of. Some say that he was chopped into pieces and fed into a meat mincer. Others, that if he ain't inside a motorway bridge or fed to pigs, then he was wrapped up in wire and fed to the fish. One book even says he's living in South America. Each of the Kray books is now becoming more and more hard to believe.
So, you may ask, then why have I written one? Good question! Simple – my story on the Krays is from the inside. I personally don't give a fuck if Mitchell's in a tin of cat food!
The Frank Mitchell story goes on and on, and now Mitchell has become a legend! Although Dartmoor was a place where inmates were routinely abused and degraded by prison officers, this wasn't the case with our Frank – he did the abusing! In jail, Frank was a feared figure and he would easily get his own way with prison staff – although he was once flogged for beating a prison officer senseless.
In 1955 he was declared mentally defective and sent to Rampton. After escaping from Rampton in 1957, he broke into a house and used an iron bar to attack the owner.
During the police operation to capture Frank, he used a pair of meat cleavers to resist arrest; this led to him being sent to Broadmoor. Soon after this, he escaped, broke into another house and was said to have attacked the occupants with an axe. In reality he did little more than break into an old couple's house and hold them captive with an axe he found in their garden shed. He did nothing more than force them to watch television with him while he drank tea with the axe neatly balanced across his knees. This led to a life sentence being imposed on him and the newspapers labelling him the 'Mad Axeman'. Although Frank was a fanatical bodybuilder and weightlifter, his brainpower did not match his size or strength. He could be lured into anything if the reward fitted what he desired. Although Frank was described as a violent and brutal psychopath, in reality he was as far removed from that description as he could possibly be. Anecdotal evidence points to Frank being nothing more than a gentle giant.
For some reason, Frank was subsequently deemed mentally stable and was sent to Dartmoor, where his behaviour took a turn for the better. Whilst at Dartmoor, Frank started breeding budgerigars, which could have resulted in him becoming known as the 'Birdman of Dartmoor', though it wouldn't have sounded as good as the 'Mad Axeman'!
By September 1966, the marked improvement in Frank's behaviour led to him being allowed to work on the outside of the prison in what was called an 'Honour Party'.
During the course of working outside of the prison, Frank would take advantage of the low security applied to him and traipse off to local pubs, always returning back to prison for the end of work. As long as he was back in time for the evening roll call he was left to his own devices.
The Home Office had not issued Frank with a release date from his life sentence and he became disgruntled. Word of this soon reached the Kray gang in London.
In an undated letter to the Krays, released by the Public Record Office, Mitchell complained about the alleged conspiracy to send him back to Broadmoor. He wrote: 'Anyway, my dears, I can always crash out of there again. I know once I get there I ain't going to ever get to get out the right way.'
On 12 December 1966, Frank was picked up from Dartmoor Prison by members of the notorious Kray gang and whisked away to a flat prepared for him in Barking Road, East Ham, London. The friendship Frank had with Ronnie and Reggie Kray had started years before in Wandsworth Prison. Frank kept up this relationship and often wrote to Ron telling him of his frustration at not being given a review date for his case.
Not surprisingly, the escape made headlines and sparked the biggest manhunt in British criminal history. Exactly why Frank was sprung from the clink is not clear, but such a powerful man could only add to the dimension of the Kray gang. One theory as to why the Kray gang broke Frank free was that it was done purely to highlight the fact that he hadn't been given a release date and that if they could keep him out long enough without him getting into trouble then the Home Office would have to consider his case.
Being cooped up in a small flat led Frank to become agitated, so the Krays brought in Lisa, a blonde nightclub hostess, to keep Frank from becoming bored. Soon after this, Frank told some of the Kray minders that he was going to marry her.
The springing of Frank seemed to have brought problems with it. Within days of Frank escaping, two letters landed at The Times and the Daily Mirror newspapers asking the Home Secretary for a release date for Frank Mitchell. Frank's thumbprint appeared at the bottom of each letter, to prove that it was actually him who had written them.
This prompted the Home Secretary to appear on national TV advising Mitchell to hand himself in. Fear started to spread amidst the Kray gang that Mitchell was becoming a liability and that he might talk and give the game away about who had freed him if he was caught! Frank was now starting to make more and more threats, saying that if the twins didn't come to see him then he would go to them. A solution to the problem had to be found!
An allegation was made that a plan was hatched by the Krays to kill Frank. The story goes that he was told by the Kray gang that he was being moved to a place in the country. The next day, 22 or 23 September 1966, a van arrived that was supposed to transport Frank to safety, but, as he stepped out to get in the van, three shots rang out, followed by a further two shots.
During the Old Bailey trial, in 1969, another gangland figure, Albert Donoghue, gave evidence against Freddie Foreman, the Kray twins and their brother, Charlie. But the judge ruled that, because Donoghue was also involved in Mitchell's escape from prison, his evidence could not be accepted without corroboration. Freddie and the Krays were acquitted. In a later admission, Ron Kray said that some Greek men murdered Frank, which is what Ron told me.
The story goes that Frank's new-found love, Lisa, dashed out and confronted Ronnie Kray, shouting, 'They've shot him. Oh, God, they've shot him!' Ronnie Kray, it has been alleged in some other books, later told another gang member, 'He's fucking dead. We had to get rid of him; he would have got us all nicked. We made a mistake getting the bastard out in the first place.'
Three years after the killing of Frank Mitchell in 1966, the Kray twins, Freddie Foreman and several other associates stood accused of murdering Frank: they were found not guilty. At a later trial, Reg Kray received five years' imprisonment for freeing Frank Mitchell from Dartmoor and another nine months for harbouring him, to run concurrently with his other sentences.
Debate has continued as to where the body of Frank Mitchell was disposed of. Possible locations have included the concrete of the Bow Road flyover, the heating boilers of the local baths, the boilers of Southwark Power Station and the sea off Newhaven Harbour. It's also been suggested that he was cremated by one of the Firm who was also a crematorium worker.
Following the escape of Frank Mitchell in 1966, and that of another con called George Blake, developments in the treatment of offenders were inevitably held back. The Prison Department found itself involved in a heavy programme of tightening up security and a report on prison security by Earl Mountbatten.
It was rumoured that, on hearing of Frank Mitchell's death, Reggie cried! Many years later, a Kray gang associate, Freddie Foreman, stated that he had been the gunman, although it is thought by many that another Kray associate played that role. Frank Mitchell – RIP.
* * *
It has been claimed that the murder of Jack 'the Hat' McVitie brought on the downfall of the Krays' empire, and also the empires of a lot of other people. Alan Bruce Cooper, an American who was already a registered informer working for a copper called John du Rose (one of Nipper Read's colleagues), was one of the first to make a statement. Cooper would've been charged with offences had he not been a registered informer.
Then there was the statement of a man called Paul Elvey, a bag man who used to run dynamite from Glasgow to London in a briefcase. The dynamite was obtained from coalmines in the Glasgow area hence the connection between Glasgow and London when it comes to hard cases. Elvey was nicked for this but had to be used as a witness when his connection to to Rose was pointed out to Nipper Read of Scotland Yard.
Nipper Read finally had his day on 9 May 1968, when he arrested most of the Kray gang members and charged them all with 'conspiracy to murder persons unknown' – a holding charge. While the gang were locked up it was possible for Read to work away on potential witnesses and he came up trumps with certain people who felt safe enough to come forward with the Krays locked up. Freddie Foreman was also arrested as well as Charlie Kray but, being the true staunch people they were, nothing could be extracted from them. There was more chance of extracting information from a disused coalmine than these two.
A surprise witness was gang member Albert Donoghue. Donoghue had no reason to feel any loyalty to the gang, as Reg had shot him in the foot in a barroom argument. Ronnie Hart was another gang member who stood in the dock pointing his finger at Ron and Reg. Their fate was sealed.
Charlie Kray was tried and sentenced to ten years as an accomplice to the McVitie murder. He wound up serving seven years of his sentence.CHAPTER 2
DOING TIME IS EASY
As I mentioned right at the start of this book, when the twins and the Firm were on remand in Brixton, in 1969, I was also on remand up in Risley Jail, in Warrington. Two Scousers and me had nicked this big lorry full of furniture and we were on our way south to flog it all. I pulled into a café at Cannock, on the A5. I had done well to get that far. After all, I had only hit half a dozen cars up to then – I just could not get it right going round corners!
Oh, and I hit a lamppost too. But I still thought that things were going well, until I pulled out of the café. CRASH! That car must have been speeding, as when I pulled out there was no sign of it. Then it was on us! One of the two Scousers let out a scream, and it was under us! My right leg got smashed, my ankle exploded, but my instinct told me to get away!
I knew the café people would be on the scene and the pigs would be there in minutes. Then there'd be an ambulance ...
There was dog shit I could do, so I shouted to the other two, 'Run!' They sat there like lumps of shit! I limped off, dived through a hedge and lay there. I was right, the Old Bill were there in no time!
My leg was in a terrible mess! The pain was agony, but I made a move. It took me a good day to get home. At this time I was living with my mum and dad – and no sooner had I landed home than I was arrested! I told Mum not to worry, and off I went, all cuffed up.
Down at the station, I found the other two. Both made statements: 'It was him.' The usual shit. Both got bail; I got remanded. But I was in big trouble – the driver of the car was on life support. They were waiting to see if he died – if he did, I'd be done with manslaughter! This was a bad spell for me, as it shook me up big time. But I want to say now, that car was speeding. Even the cops said so, having looked at the skids.
If I had had a licence, insurance and had been a lorry driver I'd have been in the clear. But I was a thief and I was in trouble.
Grisly Risley Remand Centre had to be the biggest hellhole on the planet. It had more suicides than any other jail. (Our visits were closed, and only for twenty minutes.) But we had a laugh; on the Y/Ps wing we could stick our heads through the window bars and see the women's wing! You wouldn't believe what these bitches got up to! Legs dangling out the windows! Tits! Bums! And at night ... it was brilliant (well, we were only kids). I used to be at my window all night, standing there and looking with a big hard-on! (I told you prison is evil.) It was during this period in my life that I began to perform my acts of strength. Squatting people on my back – three at a time. Then I'd get three or four of the lads to sit on the top bunk, and I'd lift it up! I'd train all day, eat like a horse and basically enjoy myself. That was until the screws started their games!
One of these incidents, I recall, happened after I had just cleaned a floor. It was spotless, and then the fat rat screw kicked my mop bucket over (on purpose), so I picked the bucket up (on purpose) and smashed it in his fat face ... accidentally! (Well, accidents do happen ...) And then it all started up: beating, choky and punishment. The screw's mates got on my case, which resulted in more violence, more beatings and it went on and on. There was no end. I was down as a lunatic and suffered big time.
Back in those days, in the block, they took your bed off you at 7.30am and you got it back at 7.30pm. All you had in your cell was a piss pot, a water jug and a bible! So you either sat on the floor and felt sorry for yourself, or you fought it! I'd smash on the door all day. Shout at them, abuse them, then I'd do my press-ups and walk up and down. I'd sing a lot too.
By the time 7.30 in the evening came, I was ready for a sleep! Yeah, Risley was a hellhole! Then it comes: you're on your way to court! The driver of the car that hit the stolen wagon I was driving pulled through! (It was the biggest relief ever.) The charges I was left with amounted to taking and driving away. Underage, no licence, no insurance, dangerous driving and all the usual crap ... I was expecting Borstal! But, to my surprise, I escaped with probation – plus a big fine, plus a life ban. I actually got a right result. But I'll say now, I'm sorry for that crash. It was a total accident – but if that driver hadn't been speeding then it would never have happened.
Then I was free again. It was down Tommy Powell's club, where my aunty Eileen worked as waitress. I used to pop in there and see if she was OK. Who should walk in but one of the rats who had been in the lorry. We soon got it on – it ended up outside in the street. I enjoyed punching his face in!
Pity the twins never had any luck. It's crazy how life is – what if that driver had died? If, if, if ... ah, why bother!
I met Harry Jacobs ('Mad H') in 1974, in the long-term wing workshop of Walton Jail. He had just left Parkhurst C Unit and come up to Walton for accumulated visits. Mad H really was the original psycho. I'd rate him amongst the top ten most dangerous – he oozed violence, it was all over his face ... but I got on great with him!
Now, remember, I had just got my sentence at this time; Harry had done years. One day, he was chatting and he was going on about the twins, blah, blah, blah. Some Scouser said, 'I bet he never even met them.' Harry went white and began to shake, and I could see it about to go off!
'Yeah,' the Scouser said, 'I bet it's all shit. I bet you've never even had the birch!'
Harry had been telling us about the birch days before. He stood up and ripped off his shirt: his back was a mass of welts. That said it all. But I'll say this for the guy: he spoke highly of the twins and showed them max respect.
Ron told me of the day when Harry lost the plot and shot in the office with a bucket full of shit and let them all have it! He got a terrible kicking over that, but Ron said he was laughing all the way to the choky as they dragged him off the wing! I think Harry lived all his life on the edge. He had been brutalised throughout his time inside, but that was just normal to him. That's how sick jail can be. It can often turn men into animals, it breeds desperation.
Excerpted from The Krays and Me by Charles Bronson, Stephen Richards. Copyright © 2004 Charles Bronson and Stephen Richards. Excerpted by permission of John Blake Publishing Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
1 The Beginning of the End,
2 Doing Time is Easy,
3 Parkhurst Truths,
4 The Madness of Ronnie Kray ... and Me,
5 Crazy Memories,
6 Jack Palance? Nah – Charles Bronson,
7 Rats and Faces,
8 Funeral for a Friend,
9 Selling Out,
10 The Thoughts of Reg Kray,
11 Deathbed Confession,
12 The Kray Connection,
Kray Fact File,