Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Obituaries

Reggie Kray; Last of British Crime Family

October 03, 2000

Reggie Kray, 66, last survivor of a London crime family who became an icon of "gangster chic." Sentenced to life in jail for murder in 1969, Kray was granted compassionate parole by Home Secretary Jack Straw on Aug. 26 because of his illness. With his twin, Ronnie, and older brother Charlie, Reggie Kray became a Cockney legend feted by celebrities and profiled in the media. The trio symbolized "gangster chic" in the mid-20th century, revered in London's East End as Robin Hood-style antiheroes who behaved like gentlemen and loved their dear old mum. The reality was considerably more brutal. The twins grew up vowing to become either boxers or villains, and in the 1950s clearly chose the second route, organizing a gang they called "the firm." Specializing in a network of protection and extortion rackets enforced by violence, they built a fortune that allowed them to buy West End nightclubs and earn semi-respectability. They hobnobbed with rock stars and lords, backed musicals, and handed out wads of money to the needy. But both twins committed very visible murders that proved their undoing. Reggie went to jail for stabbing a bungling hit man named Jack "the Hat" McVitie so thoroughly that his liver fell out. Nevertheless, the jailed twins earned even more wealth in prison through the 1988 publication of their autobiography, "Our Story," a 1990 film version of their lives and marketing of T-shirts, recordings and even books of their poetry. Reggie, whose fans included Roger Daltrey of the Who and boxer Mike Tyson, furnished his prison cell with wall-to-wall carpet, fish tanks and an imitation oak-beam ceiling. Ronnie Kray died in 1995 in the Broadmoor institute for the criminally insane. Charlie died in April while serving a sentence for drug dealing. On Sunday in Norwich, England, of bladder cancer.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|