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THE RICHARDSONS

In the long and grisly history of organised crime, at least in the days before the internet, the control of geographic territory is a recurring factor. In big cities such as New York, Los Angeles and, in this case, London, criminal gangs have tended to carve out for themselves areas of influence which can be defined with an almost postcode accuracy. Such is human frailty, greed and weakness that there is almost always enough loot to be shared between different operators, and it has often been the case that gangs have been prepared to tolerate fellow crooks just as long as they stay on their own patch. Sometimes the gangs have been defined by ethnic origin as with the traditionally bitter competition in New York between the Irish, the Jews and the Italians.

In London, the geographically insignificant island of Malta produced a whole string of thuggish gangs in the middle years of the twentieth century, but history will always confer the accolade of “headline act” of the 1960s to the Kray twins. Their villainy has attracted myth, legend, and certain dubious glamour which still endures, but were the gangs of the time to have been quoted on The Stock Exchange, it is quite possible that investors would have been more attracted by the business acumen of Charlie and Eddie Richardson. (below)

richardsons

The Richardsons operated ‘sarf of the river’ which, to those not familiar with London, means the districts south of The Thames, including Camberwell, Brixton, Stockwell, Lewisham, Deptford and Lambeth. While the Krays always seemed to be gazing at the stars, with their love of night clubs, celebrity culture and fine living, the Richardsons were perfectly happy to be in the gutter, safe in the knowledge that scrap metal and fruit machines were a less glamorous, but more profitable route to riches.

Charles “Charlie” William Richardson (1934 – 2012) and Edward “Eddie” Richardson, (1936 – ) were the CEOs of the firm while on the board of directors were none other than Frank ‘Mad Frankie’ Fraser and George Cornell. Fraser, who offered his employers informal dentistry using pliers, ended his days in sheltered accomodation suffering from Alzheimers, having recently been served with an ASBO for assaulting another resident. The 90 year-old had carved out something of a media career in his final years, guiding trips around his former stamping grounds for gullible tourists. (Below – Fraser with Eddie Richardson at Charlie’s funeral)

eddie-frankie

George Cornell’s demise was more spectacular. Having allegedly angered Ronnie Kray by calling him “a fat poof”, he was shot dead (by the allegedly overweight homosexual) on 9th cornellMarch 1966. Cornell (right) was having a quiet drink in The Blind Beggar pub, well inside Kray territory on Whitechapel Road, when Ronnie walked in and put a bullet from a 9mm Luger into his head. Needless to say, none of the bar staff or other customers saw a single thing. Kray was eventually convicted of the murder when a barmaid, aware that Ronnie was already safely under lock and key for other misdeeds, testified that she had witnessed the killing.

Older readers will have chuckled at the Monty Python parody gangster sketch featuring the The Piranha Brothers, Doug and Dinsdale. (click the image to see the video)

doug-dinsdale-piranha

This classic was an inspired homage to both The Krays and The Richardsons, but amid the laughter there is a horrible truth. Charlie and Eddie had a variety of punishments to inflict on those who crossed them. In addition to the dentistry skills of Frankie Fraser, they also used hammer and nails, and did a special line in victims’ genitals being attached to the terminals of an old fashioned crank-up WW2 field telephone generator. They were also fond of removing fingers and toes with bolt cutters.

 Charlie Richardson was arrested for torture on 30 July 1966, the World Cup Final day. Eddie Richardson was sent to prison for five years for affray. There were also stories of Charlie being connected to the South African Bureau of State Security and an attempt to tap then-Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s telephone.

The so-called “Torture Trial” began at the Old Bailey at the beginning of April 1967. The Richardsons were found guilty of fraud, extortion, assault and grievous bodily harm. Charlie Richardson was sentenced to 25 years in prison, and Eddie had ten years added to his existing sentence. Charlie Richardson was not freed until July 1984, and died in September 2012.

 

 

 

THE KRAYS

Legend

Vallance RoadREGGIE AND RONNIE KRAY have been the subject of almost as many books, documentaries and dramas as their 19th century near-neighbour Jack the Ripper. The East End that he – whoever he was – knew has changed almost beyond recognition. The Bethnal Green of the Krays is heading in the same direction, but a few landmarks remain unscathed. They were born out in Hoxton in October 1933, Reggie being the older by ten minutes. The family moved into Bethnal Green in 1938, and they lived at 178 Vallance Road. That house no longer stands, modern houses having been built on the site (left)

The schools they attended still stand, but with different names. Wood Close School (left) is now The William Davis School, while Daniel Street School (right) is now The Bethnal Green Academy.
Schools
Their life of crime is well documented elsewhere, but this brief guide focuses on the two ‘hands-on’ murders the twins committed. How many other deaths they were indirectly responsible for is a matter for others to catalogue.

Glib histories sometimes say that the Krays “ruled London’. That is totally inaccurate. Yes, they were very powerful within their own domain, and were well connected with several high profile personalities. But south of the river, the Richardson brothers, of whom more later, held sway. Generally, the two gangs acknowledged each other’s territory, if only for the reason that open warfare would benefit no-one. London is a big place, and there were plenty of pickings to be shared. Occasionally, though, personalities clashed, and it was one such example of personal antipathy which led to the first murder.

George CornellGeorge Cornell (right) had known the twins from childhood. Their careers had developed more or less on similar lines, except that Cornell became the enforcer for the Richardsons. On 7th March 1966 there was a confused shoot-out at a club in Catford. Members of the Kray gang and the Richardsons gang were involved. At some point, George Cornell had been heard to refer to Ronnie Kray as a “fat poof.” That might seem unkind, but was not totally inaccurate. Ronnie was certainly plumper than his lean and hungry twin, and his liking for handsome boys was well known.

The LionOn the evening of 9th March, Cornell and an associate were unwise enough to call in for a drink at a The Blind Beggar pub on Whitechapel Road, very much in Kray territory. Some thoughtful soul telephoned Ronnie Kray, who was drinking in a nearby pub, The Lion in Tapp Street (left). Ronnie, pausing only to collect a handgun made straight for the Blind Beggar, strode in, and shot George Cornell in the head at close range. His death was almost instantaneous. Needless to say, no-one else in the pub had seen anything. Pictured below are a post mortem photograph of Cornell, and the bloodstained floor of The Blind Beggar. Below that is the fatal pub, then and now.

Cornell

Blind Beggar

Cd-1 Jack McVitieFolklore has it that now that Ronnie had ‘done the big one’, there was pressure on Reggie to match his twin’s achievement. The chance was over a year in coming. Jack McVitie (right) was a drug addicted criminal enforcer who worked, on and off, for the Krays. His nickname ‘The Hat’ was because he was embarrassed about his thinning hair, and always wore a trademark trilby. McVitie had taken £500 from the Krays to kill someone, had botched the job, but kept the money. He had also, unwisely,been heard to bad-mouth the twins.

Everington RoadOn the night of 29th October 1967, McVitie was lured to a basement flat in Evering Road, Stoke Newington,(left) on the pretext of a party. There, he was met by Reggie Kray and other members of the firm. Kray’s attempt to shoot McVitie misfired – literally – and instead, he stabbed McVitie repeatedly with a carving knife. McVitie’s body was never found, and the stories about his eventual resting place range from his being fed to the fishes of the Sussex coast to being buried incognito in a Gravesend cemetery.

The murders were to be the undoing of the twins, but it wasn’t until May 1968 that Scotland Yard had enough evidence to arrest them. Once they were remanded behind bars, hundreds of witnesses who had hitherto imitated The Three Wise Monkeys, were suddenly available to give evidence. Reggie and Ronnie were sentenced to 30 years in prison. Ronnie died in a Berkshire hospital in March 1995, while Reggie was released on compassionate grounds in August 2000. He died of cancer in October of that year.

Chingford_Mount_Cemetery_08

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