Kray Twins found guilty of murder
When Mr Justice Melford Stevenson sentenced Reggie and Ronnie Kray to life imprisonment on March 4 1969, much of London breathed a sigh of relief. The judge recommended that they serve at least 30 years for their crimes.
They and many members of their ‘Firm’ had been tried in what was then the longest criminal trial to take place at the Old Bailey. Ronnie was to die in jail in 1995, andReggie Kray remained in prison until August 2000, when he was finally released on compassionate grounds with just weeks to live before cancer killed him.
Both brothers were found guilty of murdering Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie – Ronnie Kray held him down while Reggie stabbed him time after time, eventually pinning him to the floor with the long knife used in the killing.
The Krays managed to evade justice for years, with a few minor hiccups, by a mixture of violent terror, bribery of police officers, and exploitation of the East End ‘don’t grass’ mentality. They also enjoyed seemingly official protection for a period, the leading Conservative Party figure Lord Boothby allegedly having had an affair with Ronnie and enjoyed rent boys provided by the gang – probably photographed to ensure his cooperation when things got difficult. Boothby did at one point ask a question on their behalf in the Lords!
The establishment wall of silence over Boothby’s links to the gang was shameful – the Tories were desperate to avoid another scandal so soon after the Profumo case; and as Tom Driberg, a senior Labour figure, was also involved with the Krays, that party allegedly also wished to hush things up. Labour’s ‘Mr Fixit’ Lord Goodman (somewhat ironically, perhaps, created a Companion of Honour in 1972) acted for Boothby, and managed to frighten the papers off; this was seen by police as a ‘don’t touch’ sign for some time.
Eventually Detective Superintendent Nipper Read managed to gather evidence to arrest the twins and their accomplices, and once they were in custody witnesses came forward in numbers. The trial jury deliberated for just short of seven hours, but this was probably because of the complexity of the case, involving many gang members and various crimes, rather than major doubts over the evidence. The Krays’ defence was denial. It failed.