Ronald and Reginald Kray, in their heyday, were Kings of the East End of London. Beloved in the public eye and by celebrities alike, the Krays held much darker secrets and had a reputation for violence behind the smiles. Here at East End Tours, we revel in the darker side of London past, so let us delve into their prolific, criminal lives and discover just why they were so notorious.
If the gangster life, crime and the swinging sixties are enough to whet your appetite, we’ll get you started. After being dishonourably discharged from the army and thus ending their promising boxing careers, the Kray twins focused their attention on a life of crime by the age of 21. They acquired properties left, right and centre through a combination of buying outright (with profits from their protection rackets), hijacking, armed robbery and even arson.
Their gifting of a well-known celebrity nightclub near Knightsbridge called ‘Esmerelda’s Barn’ had the gangster twins rubbing shoulders with the likes of Barbara Windsor and Frank Sinatra. Publically, they were well-respected and prosperous businessmen, but their darker side was reaching the headlines.
Involved in turf wars with rival gangs who were encroaching on their criminal activities, the Kray twins demonstrated their control over the East End in displays of violence and terror. A newspaper suggested that Ron was involved in a homosexual affair showed the true power they exerted: the newspaper backed down after threats were made, damages were paid and the writer was sacked.
Ronnie shot and killed George Cornell of the Richardson Gang. There are many stories as to why this happened, including Ron believing that Cornell has murdered his acquaintance but many believe that it is actually because he called Ronnie ‘gay’.
Ronnie was also allegedly the force behind Reggie killing the Firm member Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie who had failed to carry out a hit had had been paid for. Reggie failed to shoot McVitie so Ronnie held him while Reggie stabbed him in the face, neck and stomach. The body was never found.
Even after their reign of terror over the East End was over, they continued to profit from their exploits. They ran a ‘bodyguard and protection’ service under the name Krayleigh Enterprises and cited Frank Sinatra as a customer. Even behind bars, they could not be stopped.
Behind bars, their behaviour never improved; they were often abusive and largely violent towards guards and staff, not to mention other prisoners. The twins still held public affection and both of them married while incarcerated.
Hold Over London
Despite them both now safely dead and buried, their notorious status lives on. With countless biographies written about their exploits and recent film releases like Legend; the focus only adds to their reputation as the hard men of the East End.
If you like what you hear and want to find out more, join us on our Krays tour. Held twice a day, three times a week, our Kray Twins Tour is the only walking tour in London dedicated to the notorious brothers. Book your ticket today!