Double trouble: 7 facts about the Kray twins
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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 with many casino sites.
7. Sent down
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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