Countless books and films have been produced that valorise and demonise the UK’s most notorious criminal brothers. Here is the lowdown on the historical rise and fall of the the Kray twins.

Watch the trailer for the Kray twins biopic, Legend:

 

1. Rising in the East

Bethnal Green East London

Reginald was the oldest twin by ten minutes. He and his brother Ronald were born in 1933, in Hoxton. Their parents, Violet and Charles, were Eastenders of Irish and Jewish heritage, hailing from Bethnal Green and Shoreditch respectively.  

 

2. How to pull a punch

boxing ring 1960s

Encouraged by their proud maternal grandfather, the two brothers Ron and Reggie showed great promise as boxers. By the time they were old enough to turn professional, they had never lost a fight.

 

3. Thug life

prison cell bars

Even at a young age, the Kray twins were renowned in London for their gang’s violence, narrowly escaping imprisonment on a number of occasions. But it was a refusal to complete National Service that first saw them behind bars.

 

4. Ronnie

psychiatric bed hospital

Ronald Kray lived with undiagnosed schizophrenia for most of his life. When the twins were eventually sentenced in 1964, Ronnie served his sentence at the secure mental health facility Broadmoor Hospital.

 

5. Hotspot

gambling poker chips

It’s unclear how the Krays came to be proprietors of the Knightsbridge bar Esmeralda's Barn but the club increased the brothers’ influence in the west end. The legalisation of gambling in 1960 made them a visible presence, rubbing shoulders with international celebrities—including Frank Sinatra!

 

6. The Family

mafia gun money
The Krays’ gang went by the name The Firm. As their reputation grew, another famous crime family—the Mafia—approached them to help them in their plan to turn London into the gambling capital of Europe.

 

7. Sent down

prison bars

Met with universal witness silence, it was a conference at Scotland Yard that decided upon the arrest of the Kray twins. Inspector Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read led the murder squad that eventually saw the two sentenced to 30 years without parole—the longest sentence ever passed at the Old Bailey. 

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