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pics.. Brown with Reggie Kray. Brown outside 178 Vallance Road. Brown with Limehouse Willy, Big Pat Connolly at Reggie Krays Wedding 1965.
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Thomas Welch also more commonly known as The Bear or Big Tommy Brown was an integral member of The Firm, who was a very well-built fighter.
Tommy Brown came from Tottenham and was known as ‘The Bear’. He was around five-feet eleven and carried powerful shoulders. His neck was nineteen inches thick and he had steel grey hair and blue eyes with an almost pugilist’s nose. He earned his nickname from his sheer size and strength, and he was regarded as a fighting man in and out of the ring. Tommy was a main part of the Kray Firm and Reggie Kray regarded him as one of his closest friends during the 1960s. At every opportunity, Reggie and Brown would go to the backyard at 178 Vallance Road and spar with boxing gloves.
Brown had been a good professional heavyweight fighter and he usually assisted Reggie on the doors of the various clubs to keep order. His presence was a deterrent to would-be troublemakers who didn’t fancy their chances against Brown in a fight. Reggie once prevented him from breaking the singer, Billy Daniels jaw, after he became impertinent towards Brown. On one occasion at The Double R Club, a customer became rather raucous and disruptive. The Bear lifted him by his tie and swung him around the club.
Tommy Brown was a very smart dresser, who dressed like a film star and played the part well. All the firm held him in high esteem and always referred to him as ‘The Bear’ or ‘Big Tom’. The police once called upon Brown’s Tottenham address to arrest him but before they succeeded in taking him in for questioning, he knocked out eleven officers, for which he then received two years in prison.
Dickson with George Raft & Freddie Foreman in the Colony club. Jack Dickson
John Dickson more commonly known as “Scotch Jack”‘, was a driver for Ronnie Kray and was a key member of The Firm.
He drove Ronnie and Ian Barrie to The Blind Beggar public-house the night that George Cornell was murdered. In addition, he was also one of Frank Mitchell’s chaperones whilst he was in hiding from the authorities. He turned Queen’s Evidence against the twins at the Kray’s trial, after they attempted to make him stand for George Cornell’s murder, but he was acquitted.
Dickson was born in the dockland area of Leith, Edinburgh to a family of eight. He left school at fourteen and started to work for a local engineering firm. When he turned eighteen, he volunteered to join the Royal Marines. He trained for two years at the Commando School in Lympstone, Devon where he was prepared for active service. Shortly after he joined the 45 Commando and was shipped out to Malaya to fight terrorists. Then, after that, he volunteered to join HMS Newcastle to fight in the Korean War. He received three campaign medals, one for Malaya, Korea and a United Nationals medal. Leaving the Marines in 1955, he went back home to his family in Scotland. After attempting to settle into civilian life and trying a job as a ‘rigger’ for the Scottish Gas Board (setting up equipment for the engineers), then working with heavy machinery on a conveyor-type system for a local engineering company. Dickon moved to London from Edinburgh in 1964 after befriending Ian Barrie.
Barrie had also been thinking of moving to London and so the pair took their first steps into the great metropolis together, first taking accommodation in the somewhat seedy King’s Cross area, a popular place for first-time Irish and Scottish migrants to settle, and later a flat on Brick Lane.
The murder of George Cornell
Ronnie Kray was drinking in another pub when he learned of Cornell’s location. He went there with his driver “Scotch Jack” John Dickson and his assistant Ian Barrie. Some accounts say that Ronnie got Dickson to stop at the Grave Maurice pub, as if he was looking for Cornell in there; however, Dickson makes no mention of this in his memoir. Ronnie went into the pub with Barrie, walked straight to Cornell and shot him in the head in public view. Barrie, confused by what happened, fired five shots in the air warning the public not to report what had happened to the police. Just before he was shot, Cornell remarked, “Well, look who’s here.” He died at 3:00am in hospital.
On 8 May 1968, the Krays and 15 other members of their “firm” were arrested. Exceptional circumstances were put in place so as to stop any possible co-operation against any of the accused. Nipper Read then secretly interviewed each of the defendants and offered each firm member one chance to come to the side of law and order. Whilst in prison, the Krays had come up with a plan, which included Scotch Jack Dickson to confess to the murder of Cornell, Ronnie Hart to take the McVitie and Albert Donoghue to stand for Mitchell. Although Read knew for certain that Ronnie Kray had murdered George Cornell in the Blind Beggar pub no one had been prepared to testify against the twins out of fear. Upon also finding out the twins intended to cajole him, ‘Scotch Jack’ Dickson also turned in everything he knew about Cornell’s murder. Although not a witness to the actual murder he was an accessory, having driven Ronnie Kray and Ian Barrie to the pub. The police still needed an actual witness to the murder. They then managed to track down the barmaid who was working in the pub at the time, gave her a secret identity and she testified to seeing Ronnie killing Cornell. Limited photos of the camera-shy Dickson are available. He featured in a documentary about the twins, where he was interviewed in a park. His identity was kept hidden, however. In his later years, he was a successful businessman and lived in the south of England with his wife
Richard Edward Smith or more commonly known as “Mad Teddy Smith”, was a member of The Firm and a psychopathic homosexual rumoured to have had affairs with Ronnie Kray and Tom Driberg, a Labour MP. He allegedly disappeared the day after an argument with the Krays in 1967.
Smith was very close to the Kray twins and was part of their senior management team that met every day at 178 Vallance Road.
with ‘the firm’ at Freddie Mills club. Celebrating their acquittal at Old Bailey 1965
Since the age of seventeen, he had accumulated a total of nine convictions for armed robbery, assaulting a police officer, and most commonly, theft: he had only recently been released from prison after serving a fifteen-month sentence for stealing a car. Emotionally, he enjoyed the dangerous side of homosexual relationships, with a penchant for rough sex. He could be amusing and friendly, but when drunk, he could change in a heartbeat, showing an aptitude for violence which earned him his nickname.
Smith’s nickname was well-founded and was known to be a very well read intelligent man who could speak multiple languages, although was extremely volatile and prone to violent outbursts. Smith was rumoured to be having an affair with Tom Driberg, a senior Labour MP, member of the National Executive and former chairman of the party.
Not only had he been to Broadmoor and certified insane, in Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days, there’s an instance described where Teddy was seen at The Hideaway club, being a nuisance and too drunk. He was thrown out of the club, and later arrested with the Twins in association with the McCowan affair. He carried around a little dog and a long cigarette holder and was also a playwright, and wrote a prison based play for the BBC called The Top Bunk, in October of 1967. It was the first TV play to be broadcast in colour on the BBC and was transmitted by BBC TV on 30th October 1967 in their Thirty Minute Theatre series. Teddy was credited as Ted Smith and, according to the BBC synopsis: “Two old lags who share the same cell have got prison life down to a fine art. They are upset when an outsider, a public school type and a first timer, is made to live with them and bowled over when he reveals a sinister side to his nature, which makes him their natural leader, entitled to the position of prestige – the top bunk.”
Teddy was involved with springing Frank Mitchell from Dartmoor, along with fellow firm member, Albert Donoghue. He also helped write letters to national newspapers regarding Frank’s release date.
Smith was in a relationship with Ronnie Kray, although the duration of it is unknown. He and Ronnie fought quite frequently, verbally, never physically and their rows never lasted long. Ronnie was very fond of Teddy and vice-versa. According to Pearson, he was ‘one of the few people Ronnie trusted who was also capable of handling him’.
He also had a relationship with Tom Driberg, a Labour MP, who provided him with the addresses of rich friends to burgle in exchange for sexual favours from Smith. Smith and the Kray were arrested by Nipper Read’s police squad on protection racket charges, after Smith had smashed up a West End club the twins were trying to muscle in on. Lord Boothby campaigned for his friends in the House of Lords, demanding to know how long they would be detained before the trial. His fellow peers were appalled at Boothby’s intervention, as were the police. The twins and Smith were later acquitted, seen in the photo above leaving the Old Bailey. As they walked free from the court, Boothby had penned a letter of congratulations to Ronnie and Teddy Smith.
He disappeared in the late 1960s, just prior to the arrest of the Twins. Some say (including Nipper Read) he was murdered at the request/at the hands of the Twins, after having a disagreement. The disagreement was that he and Ronnie fought fiercely over a boy whilst on holiday with some other young men.
However, it has been said that Teddy was not killed at all. In Bringing Down the Krays by Bobby Teale, it states that Henry Buller Ward claims he ran into Teddy in London, a few years after his supposed murder. More recently, it’s been said that Teddy packed up his belongings and moved to Australia, where he lived out his life, dying of natural causes in 2006. However, in 2012 two images began to circulate the internet and gangland activity forums of an alleged Smith in his later years, bearing an uncanny likeness to him, drawing similarities to his ears, smile and nose. It has been said that he died of natural causes in 2006, aged 74.
Leslie James Payne was a con-man who worked for the Krays. He acted at the twins business manager and Payne, during the 1960s, encouraging them to broaden their empire into the club world and persuading them to buy casinos, clubs, and pubs, notably The Hideaway (later renamed El Morocco). He considered himself a cultured man and he was sickened by the twins’ violence and was a key witness during the Kray trial where he gave evidence against them.
Born in Paddington, London, in 1927, Payne came from a diverse background: his mother was from an impoverished family, his father from a well-to-do one, and the latter had originally trained as a solicitor before deafness curtailed his legal career and he was forced into more menial work by his disability. Payne had served as an Infantry Sergeant during the war and had seen incredible hardship and violence at the battle of Monte Cassino in 1944, and thus he would never be too intimidated by the more aggressive elements within the underworld.
During his army days, he became adept at making money through illicit means, and, after being demobbed in 1947, he took this skill into the outside world. With his broad-shouldered good looks and his confident and well-spoken manner, he had the deportment of an Old Etonian and was able to speak in a language that professional people understood. He was essentially a businessman, and often a good one at that; but he had chosen to exercise his talents in the criminal subculture, abetted by his partner, a cunning accountant named Frederick Gore, whom Payne described as “a comedian, an innocent.”
Payne first met the Krays indirectly through his car-dealership business in Stratford: on one particular occasion in 1959, a business arrangement with another dealership had gone wrong, with the owners claiming that Payne owed them money. When Payne refused to pay them, they mentioned that they had ‘influential friends’ by way of a veiled threat, which initially cut no ice with Payne. Those ‘influential friends’ turned out to be the twins. When Payne faced the music and met them, he was able to bend them to his way of thinking and they even took his side against the other dealership, who they felt had been using their reputation in vain.
Perhaps because of his keen intelligence and appearance of breeding, the Krays took a liking to Payne and would visit him often, probably aware that he could be a useful ally. They were also very willing to defend him: one day, he had a minor altercation with Bobby Ramsey, the old Kray associate who worked for him part-time at the dealership. The relationship between the Krays and Ramsey had soured since the 1956 Terry Martin assault case, and, having heard through the grapevine about the small spat, the twins came over with members of the Firm to sort things out. When Ramsey challenged either of them to a ‘straightener’ (a straightforward, stand-up fight that would be forgotten about once honour had been satisfied), Ronnie replied, “Straight up fight? We haven’t come here for that. We’ve come here to hurt you.” They then beat Ramsey up.
Reggie found him useful whereas Ron was sceptical of his presence in the firm. The Krays paid Jack McVitie to kill him when it was suspected that he was going to inform the police of their criminal activities. McVitie failed to do this, instead, spending the money on drink and pills and bragging about it. This then subsequently lead to his murder.
Ronnie Kray offered Jack McVitie £500 to kill Payne. When the day came, Billy Exley drove Jack McVitie to Payne’s house in Tulse Hill. The plan was to knock on the door and when Payne opened it, to shoot him there and then. It transpired that McVitie lost his nerve and could not go through with it. Stupidly, he kept the money and gave the twins some limp story about Payne’s wife answering the door and saying he wasn’t in, which in turn later added to the reason for his murder.
John Alexander Barrie more commonly known as Scotch Ian Barrie was an integral member of the firm, serving as Ronnie Kray’s right-hand man. He was present at the murder of George Cornell at The Blind Beggar, where he fired three shots into the ceiling.
Barrie served as a soldier in the marines, and had a scar from a tank fire on his face. Known as the Firm’s man of mystery, he has kept a remarkably low profile since serving his time in prison after 1980, allegedly now living in Nottingham. Barrie had been born in Bristol in 1937, but the family had moved to Edinburgh when he was a few months old. He had quite a colourful past: he spent a year employed as a seaman with a whaling company in the Antarctic, and from 1958 to 1961 had served in the Royal Scots Greys. It was during this time that Barrie had an accident when his tank caught fire when it was being serviced, resulting in burns on the right side of his face, his ear, and around the right hand and wrist. Several months of treatment followed at Catterick Military Hospital, leaving Barrie with visible scarring, but as Jack Dickson would recall, “this didn’t stop women finding him attractive… he looked tough and we got on well together. He could obviously handle himself.” Barrie worked on Salveson’s Shipping Company in Leith.
Barrie had also been thinking of moving to London and so he and Jack Dickson took their first steps into the great metropolis together, first taking accommodation in the somewhat seedy King’s Cross area, a popular place for first-time Irish and Scottish migrants to settle. It wasn’t all straightforward, as on 18 June 1964, Barrie was charged with ‘wandering abroad’, essentially vagrancy, and was given a conditional discharge for a month. Unimpressed by the general grime of the district they then moved on to Stoke Newington, not a major improvement, but as its once-impressive houses had now been sublet as bedsits (many on easy terms), they were quickly able to find a place to stay in return for working as window cleaners. It was during this time that they heard from a colleague about a card club in Brick Lane in the heart of the East End.
Reggie Kray was working hard at this part of their business and by the end of 1962, their revenue from this source had doubled. The twins had developed such a reputation that often club owners approached them first, seeking their guarantee of cover. Soon, as well as the East End, the Firm was protecting clubs in Shepherd’s Market, Mayfair, Soho, Chelsea and Knightsbridge. They had a seemingly endless list of these businesses paying tribute to them. Benny’s in Commercial Road; Dodgers in Brick Lane; in Whitechapel, the Green Dragon and next door to this The Little Dragon; The Two Aces; in Soho the Gigi Club, The New Life and The New Mill. The list went on and on.
The 20th Century Club was situated above a shop and accessible by a narrow staircase from the street door, and was looked after by Billy Kray, the younger brother of the twins’ father. In the eyes of these two strangers from Scotland, Billy was a generous and friendly man and they soon began to socialise with him. An encounter with his infamous nephews was, therefore, soon in the offing. This happened at the Grave Maurice one night. Reggie appeared friendly and took the time to talk to Barrie and Dickson before circulating, but Ronnie was less sociable and gave off an aura of control as he sat in his regular chair whilst the various members of the Firm kept a careful eye on the two unfamiliar faces. In fact, Ronnie was unimpressed that Uncle Billy had brought two strangers to the pub without informing him first. Within a few weeks, however, Barrie and Dickson had won the trust of the Krays and Ronnie offered them both the chance to work for the Firm.
Every Friday, members of The Firm, Albert Donoghue, Ronnie Hart, Jack Dickson and Ian Barrie would make the rounds, collecting the cash for the twins. It was known as “the milk round.”
The murder of George Cornell
Ronnie was drinking in another pub when he learned of Cornell’s location. He went there with his driver “Scotch Jack” John Dickson and his assistant Ian Barrie. Ronnie went into the pub with Barrie, walked straight to Cornell and shot him in the head in public view. Barrie, confused by what happened, fired five shots in the air warning the public not to report what had happened to the police. Just before he was shot, Cornell remarked, “Well, look who’s here.” He died at 3:00am in hospital.
Although Read knew for certain that Ronnie Kray had murdered George Cornell in the Blind Beggar pub no one had been prepared to testify against the twins out of fear. Upon also finding out the twins intended to cajole him, ‘Scotch Jack’ Dickson also turned in everything he knew about Cornell’s murder. Although not a witness to the actual murder he was an accessory, having driven Ronnie Kray and Ian Barrie to the pub. The police still needed an actual witness to the murder. They then managed to track down the barmaid who was working in the pub at the time, gave her a secret identity and she testified to seeing Ronnie killing Cornell.
Arrest and later life
Barrie, aged thirty-one at the time, was found guilty for the murder of George Cornell and was sentenced to life imprisonment with a recommendation to serve at least 20 years, having been arrested at 471 Lea Bridge Road.
After serving his prison sentence and being released in 1980, Barrie has kept a very low profile and has released no book or interviews like other members of the firm, allegedly living in Nottingham.
Cornelius ‘Connie’ Whitehead was a member of the firm. He was present at the death of Jack McVitie at 97 Evering Road, although he took no part in it.
He acted as Ronnie’s driver for a short while, but he soon became suspicious of Whitehead during the events leading up to George Cornell’s death at The Blind Beggar, and was dismissed as a driver and he also received death threats. However, Whitehead remained loyal to the twins and received seven years imprisonment as a consequence.
An Eastender born in 1937, he was becoming a regular presence within the Firm during 1966, and an occasional driver for the twins. He had a number of convictions, including two for dishonesty and one for assaulting a police officer, and, as well as having numerous jobs as a docker, a porter and a labourer, he was not averse to a little pimping on the side. He owned a gambling club in Aldgate and the Astor Club in Canning Town. In 1963, Whitehead was a suspect during the investigation into the murder of prostitute Gwynneth Rees, in what later became known as the ‘Jack the Stripper’ murders. Whitehead, known for knocking his girls about, had had an altercation with Rees and she had left him, only to be found dead a short while after; however, there was insufficient evidence against Whitehead, who (for a short time at least) appeared to be the best suspect for the murder.
During the time leading up to the trial, the twins despised Whitehead, and were at one time thinking of having him killed. At the time of his arrest, Whitehead was living at Rosefield Gardens, Tower Hamlets, with Charlie Kray.
PAT CONNOLLY born 1930 Glasgow deceased.
Patrick “Big Pat” Connolly was a member of the Firm for many years, serving as the Krays bodyguard. He was a train to Glasgow when Scotland Yard arrested the Firm.
Although he has been well photographed and documented throughout the 1960s, limited information is known about Connolly.
Hailing from Glasgow, Scotland, The Krays first came into contact with Connolly when they were remanded together in Brixton Prison. Reggie had given him a job at the Double R Club as a part-time doorman and barman. Connolly’s weight was between seventeen and eighteen stone, and he could punch his weight. He had a couple of scars on his face due to various battles he had been in, and when he and Limehouse Willy were fighting side by side, they were a good group to have amongst the firm.
It is known that he had no criminal record up to his time with the Krays, and that he acted as ‘club secretary’ at The Double R Club, (he would later be convicted for five offences between November 1957 and February 1968, ranging from receiving stolen goods to possession of a firearm). He is also featured briefly in the 1962 film, Sparrer’s Can’t Sing in which the lead role visits The Kentucky Club and Connolly is seen waiting in the doorway with Limehouse Willy. In a later scene, he is seen asleep on a chair inside the club. Connolly was also present when Lenny Hamilton was slashed in the toilets by Buller Ward’s son Bonner in The Regency in 1959. Connolly then proceeded to tell the twins about the altercation, which in turn lead to Hamilton being branded by Ronnie. Connolly frequently visited Frank Mitchell at Dartmoor Prison and later at 206a Barking Road.
Witnesses had come forward about the Rover (licence plate UPM 533) that Pat Connolly and his companions had used on their last two visits to Dartmoor. ‘Fat’ Wally Garelick had been visited at his home in Stepney by Detective Superintendent Edward Harris and Inspector Swain on 13 December, and taken to Arbour Square Police Station for questioning; Garelick, perhaps surprisingly, gave the names of practically everybody who had visited Mitchell, even revealing their aliases, but was careful not to implicate any of them in the actual escape. Two days later, using Garelick’s information, Pat Connolly was spoken to at Stoke Newington Police Station by Harris. Connolly was less cooperative, but still gave names which confirmed Garelick’s statement. When asked how often he visited Mitchell, he replied, “Lots of times – the twins send us down there. They look after lots of slags.”
After splitting up from his wife, Connolly rented a front room from Winnie Harwood at 113 Evering Road, several doors up from 97 Evering Road, where the murder of Jack McVitie took place several months later.
1st pic. Johnny Carden, Willie Malone, Joe Schaffer and Pat Connolly at Reggie Kray & Frances Shea’s wedding
2nd pic….Pat Connolly with the firm, c. 1960.
3rd pic…Ronnie (far left) and Reggie (far right) in an East End pub, with bodyguard Pat Connolly (centre, rear)
RONNIE BENDER born 1938 East London, died 2004.
Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Bender was a member of The Firm. Bender was Ronnie Kray’s personal chauffeur and drove him to the flat where Jack McVitie was murdered.
An ex-solider, he was present at Jack McVitie’s murder but took no part. He was subsequently given a twenty-year sentence at the Kray trial as a consequence, aged thirty. He served eighteen years of the sentence.
Ronald Bender, from the Isle of Dogs, was also moving into the ranks at this time, a handsome man who had risen to the position of Acting Sergeant during his National Service and who had worked for the Dock Labour Board since 1960. He had also served in the 22nd Special Air Service Regiment. For the preceding couple of years, however, he had missed a lot of work owing to a back injury, and was now acquiring his income as an increasingly useful member of the Firm as a driver. Lenny Hamilton was a good friend of Bender and described him as “a big, strong man. He was not violent and if he couldn’t do you a good turn then he certainly wouldn’t do you a bad one.” Significantly, up to that time, Bender did not possess a criminal record, probably the only member of the Firm who didn’t.
After The Murder of Jack McVitie, Tony and Chris Lambrianou and Ronnie Bender helped clear up the mess and tried to dispose of the body. With the body being too big to fit in the boot of the car, the body was wrapped in an eiderdown and put in the back seat of a car. Tony Lambrianou drove the car with the body and Chris Lambrianou and Bender followed behind. Crossing the Blackwall tunnel, Chris lost Tony’s car, and spent up to fifteen minutes looking around Rotherhithe area. They eventually found Tony, outside St Mary’s Church, where he had run out of fuel with McVitie’s body still inside the car. With no alternative than to dump it in the churchyard, and attempt to plant a gang south of the River Thames, the body was left in the car and the three gangsters returned home. Bender then went on to phone Charlie Kray informing them that it had been dealt with. However, upon finding out where they had left McVitie’s corpse, the twins were livid and desperately phoned Foreman, who was then running a pub in Southwark, to see if he could dispose of the body. With dawn breaking, Foreman found the car, broke into it and drove the body to Newhaven where, with the help of a trawlerman, the body was bound with chicken wire and dumped in the English Channel. Bender was living in Cubitt Town, Poplar at the time of his arrest.
After he was released from prison, it was alleged that he was very institutionalised, and remained indoors with his wife Buddy. Living close by to his friend Lenny Hamilton, he passed away on the 13th September 2004, aged 66 in East London.
Freddie Foreman with the Krays
Frederick Gerald Foreman is a convicted English criminal involved in the disposal of the body of Jack “the Hat” McVitie (killed by Reggie Kray) and for which he was sentenced to ten years in prison. He was a prominent figure in 1960s London gangland activity, and was well respected throughout the capital. He was nicknamed “Brown Bread Fred”.
Born in Sheepcote Lane, Battersea in 1932, Foreman was involved in violence from a young age. He was known for his involvement with audacious criminal plans, one of which was the murder of Frank ‘The Mad Axeman’ Mitchell – a British criminal previously befriended by Ronnie Kray when they served a sentence together at Wandsworth prison.
Foreman was involved in the Shoreditch Security Express robbery of 1983, which at the time was the largest cash robbery in the UK. For his part in it he received nine years in prison. At the time of the Kray’s arrest, he was thirty-six, and licencee of The Prince Of Wales, Lant Street in Southwark Foreman also confessed to the murders of Frank “Mad Axeman” Mitchell, and of Tommy “Ginger” Marks in the 1960s in revenge for the shooting of his brother (shot in the legs). He had been acquitted of the murders at an Old Bailey trial in the 1960s where he was listed as living at Red Post Hill, Dulwich, London. He additionally claimed to have intimidated witnesses to the killing of George Cornell in the Blind Beggar Pub in Whitechapel by Ronnie Kray and to having been a hitman for the Kray twins. Foreman moved to Spain after he left prison.
He is the father of actor Jamie Foreman, Gregory Foreman and Danielle Foreman.
Big Albert Donoghue was an integral member of The Firm and was Reggie Kray’s right-hand man, minder, and chief executive. He also acted as a driver and money collector for the twins and would collect money from their various clubs in the West End.
Occasionally using the surname “Barry” (his stepfather’s family name) to confuse the police, Donoghue was a known villain in the East End throughout the 1950s and 1960s. After a friend, Lenny Hamilton was badly hurt by the Krays, a remark was reputedly misconstrued as a threat against the twins, and Donoghue was shot in the leg by Reggie Kray. Donoghue said nothing to the police and this, therefore earned him recruitment into the Kray firm. One of the twins most trusted associates, he later turned Queen’s Evidence against the Krays in their trail, after they tried to make him stand for Frank Mitchell’s murder. Donoghue was born in Dublin on Bonfire night, November 5th, 1935, to a strict working-class Catholic family. The third of four children, the others being girls, his father was a seaman who died of pneumonia soon after moving the family to Stepney in London’s East End when Donoghue was three years old. During World War II, he along with his siblings to Devon. He then attended a strict Catholic boarding school in Orpington, Kent. As a young man, during 1956, he joined the merchant navy as a deck labourer.
Soon after, Donoghue with his three sisters and their mother moved to The East End when Donoghue’s father died; his mother later married a man named Barry with whom she had eight more children and Albert would occasionally use the Barry name, especially later when he had turned to crime and a handy alias was needed to confuse the authorities. He used violence from a young age, grew to be a strong, tall man and, like many others in his circle, went through the Borstal system.
“I have managed to outlive all my gangland bosses. I can’t say I was affected in any way by their deaths. They had no impact on me. There’s no point dancing on their graves.”
, The Kray’s Lieutenant 1996
Starting out with a few villains from Bow on a small robbery, his main business was payroll snatches, operating in Bow, two miles east of Bethnal Green, the Kray’s territory. The gang was commonly known as Harry Abrahams’ Firm, only for Abraham himself was sentenced to five years imprisonment. In the late 1950s, he worked with a gang robbing banks and payroll vans, as well as working the racecourse betting pitches for Albert Dimes, Billy Hill’s lieutenant, just as the twins had done for Jack Spot only a few years earlier. He received his first major prison sentence on 25 February 1958, fifteen months for ‘factorybreaking with intent’. Donoghue’s brother-in-law was Billy Donovan, a member of the Kray Firm and one-time doorman at the Double R Club, and over the course of a couple of years the twins would drift in and out of Donoghue’s criminal life as a consequence. By 1961, Donoghue had met and married his wife, and it was at this time he had become a fully active criminal.
Donoghue got to know Lenny Hamilton, a young man working as a valet and a batman for a member of the payroll team, and also an occasional jewel thief and safe breaker. After Hamilton was badly burnt by a red-hot poker by Ronnie Kray, Hamilton, however, had not told anybody in the Abrahams gang who had actually burnt him, so when Donoghue spoke out about the incident, he was blissfully unaware that it had been committed by the most dangerous member of what, at that time, was probably the most dangerous criminal organisation in London. He told Hamilton, “If they’d done that to me, I’d have blown their heads off.”
Soon after, on 17 September 1962, Donoghue was given a three-year prison sentence after being found guilty of attempted larceny of £3,000 during a payroll robbery, and was sent to Pentonville. It was whilst he was at ‘The ‘Ville’, that somebody told the Krays what Donoghue had said about Hamilton’s torturer; thinking that he was making a threat about them (they did not realise that he was unaware of who was responsible), they kept a mental note of it. Reggie, in particular, was very good at storing up grudges in order to exact retribution a long while after (in contrast to Ronnie, who usually responded immediately).
When out, Donoghue went for a drink in The Crown & Anchor, Cheshire Street, Bethnal Green, after he received a message they wanted to see him. He was drinking for a short while when he noticed people moving away from him. He was then shot in the leg from behind by Reggie Kray who entered the pub from behind him. After being told to visit the Krays later at Vallance Road, with his leg in plaster after walking to the Royal London Hospital, Donoghue was put on a pension and subsequently given a place on The Firm, stopping his activity with his former gang.
He later became the Kray’s paymaster and enforcer, working for them throughout their most powerful and violent years. He would frequently visit the West End of London and collect money from the nightclubs that the Krays owned. He was used as a ‘face’ of the Kray gang so that people would know if a club was owned by The Firm. Donoghue would often work as a doorman for various different clubs that the twins were in charge of, once getting in a physical fight with Ian Barrie after he was attempting to flirt with another member of The Firm’s wife.
Albert himself played a crucial role in Frank Mitchell’s escape from Dartmoor prison. When “The Mad Axeman” Mitchell escaped with the help of Teddy Smith, Donoghue was one who went to take supplies to the flat in Barking where Mitchell was being temporarily held. A young woman named Lisa was supplied to keep Mitchell happy, but unfortunately, Mitchell, it is said, fell for her. Soon, Mitchell became very and agitated restless and wanted to get out and about to visit family and old friends. Despite his tough reputation, Donoghue knew he would never stop Mitchell, as he had unusually phenomenal strength. After Mitchell began making threats of visiting Vallance Road and potentially causing a scene.The Krays decided that Mitchell was too much trouble, and asked Freddie Foreman, an old friend of the Krays from Southwark, South London, to “sort out” the problem.
A van arrived later that evening at the flat with Foreman and Alfie Gerrard inside. Donoghue escorted Mitchell to the van on the pretense that he was being taken to a safe house to meet Ronnie Kray. The pair narrowly avoided a young police officer, then Mitchell was told to get in the back of the van. Donoghue sat in the front as Mitchell sat in the back partition wheel casing. Soon after the doors slammed shut, signaling to shoot Mitchell, to which Foreman and Gerrard opened fire shooting him twelve times, but killing him slowly. Thinking he would be next, the van drove off and let Donoghue out later near his home in Bow. He made the phone call to Reggie Kray, stating ‘that dog has won”, meaning Mitchell is dead, to avoid police attention. The problem of the girl, Lisa, who was worried about the noises from the shooting, was told it was the van backfiring. She was then sorted out later that evening, whilst worrying she would be killed next, Donoghue assured her and took her away from the flat, where they then spent the night together.
When Reggie Kray killed Jack McVitie, Donoghue helped redecorated the blood-soaked room that the murder occurred in. At the time of the Firm’s downfall and the Kray twins arrest on the 8th May 1968, Donoghue was thirty-two and living on Devons Road in Bow. He met The Krays in a custodial solicitors visit and handed them his notes on what had happened in the previous murders. Ronnie Kray then proceeded to rip them up and told him they that they wanted Ronnie Hart to stand for the murder of Jack McVitie, John Dickson to stand up for George Cornell, and Donoghue was expected to take the rap for the murder of Frank Mitchell, but he told the twins directly that he wasn’t prepared to be cajoled into pleading guilty, much to the anger of Ronnie Kray.
In December 1968, he managed to inform Nipper Read via his mother who was back home in Bow, that he would turn Queen’s Evidence against the twins. Read set up another interview in secret and Donoghue was the first to tell the police everything that he knew. After being in remand for several months, he pleaded guilty to harboring Mitchell and respectively received an 18-month sentence for his involvement in the McVitie and Mitchell affairs but subsequently was released in 1969 after doing around six months.
Even the killer of Frank Mitchell, Freddie Foreman, said that the Krays put Donoghue in a difficult situation but he handled it well. Foreman later admitted that the evidence Donoghue gave in court about Mitchell’s murder was true. In the case of Lisa, when asked if he would have killed her if ordered to, he said that, yes, eventually he would have. Known for his brutal honesty, Donoghue was one of the only members of the Kray gang who told the truth and made no bones of his occupation as a gangster.
Donoghue has said that in the early 1970s Billy Amies, an old friend who he had served time with and worked on the sea with, attempted to kill Donoghue in a car, only for Donoghue to end up attacking Amies with his own weapon (a potato peeler.) The pair were on their way to a nightclub opposite Rotherhithe Tunnel around one in the morning after a heavy drinking session in a few pubs in Bow, when near Tower Bridge. Donoghue had severed an artery in Amies’ lip, spraying blood all over the windscreen, whilst he escaped in fear of a backup car and explained the situation to the police at Fleet Street but nothing came of the incident, apart from a £25 fine.
Donghue in 2012 with Lenny Hamilton and Billy Frost.
Ronald Joseph Hart was a distant cousin of the twins and was a key member of The Firm towards the late 1960s despite being the youngest member. He turned Queen’s Evidence at the Kray trial when the twins attempted to get him to stand for Jack McVitie’s murder.
Hart was born in Bethnal Green in 1942 to Thomas Joseph Hart and Mary Ann Burling who married in Stepney in 1927. Hart had been ingratiating himself into the Firm during the early 1960s. He had recently been released from prison, and like many before him, went to the twins for help on his release. Reggie later remembered that He came knocking on the door at Vallance Road one day and said, ‘Hello, I’m your cousin. I want to join your gang.’ We’d never met him before but our checks showed he seemed to be reliable – another mistake – and so we took him on. He was our cousin but he had the habit of calling us both ‘uncle’.”
It has never been explained in what way Ronnie Hart was actually related to the twins. His parents were Thomas Joseph Hart and Mary Ann Burling, who had married in Stepney in 1
Hart was a young man with boyish good looks who admired the twins’ way of life, and he enjoyed the sort of work that the twins could now offer him; this was probably provided more out of some family loyalty than a real desire to make Hart a valid, useful member of the Firm. A visit to an established club, with two trusted members of the gang, in order to exert the Kray influence, must have been a very appealing prospect to the young Ronnie Hart.
It was alleged that on the night Jack McVitie was murdered at 97 Evering Road, he was held in a bearhug by the twins’ cousin, Ronnie Hart, and Reggie Kray was handed a carving knife. Hart was then asked by the twins to take stand for the McVitie case. Ronnie Hart had initially not been arrested, and was not a name initially sought after by the police. With Albert Donoghue’s testimony, Hart was hunted down, found and arrested. Offering the same terms as the others arrested, Hart then told Nipper Read everything that had happened during McVitie’s murder, although he did not know anything about what happened to the body. This was the first time that the police knew exactly who was involved, and offered them a solid case to prosecute the twins for McVitie’s murder.
.When Harry Hopwood was interrogated, he was reluctant to speak at first, and then suddenly broke down in front of ‘Nipper’ Read, telling him about the night the twins came to his place covered in blood. He spoke of disposing of the gun and the knife with Ronnie Hart, leading to a police diver retrieving the now grime-encrusted weapon from the bottom of the Regent’s Canal on 23 August. An attempt was also made to locate the murder weapon, the carving knife, from the river bed; three knives were actually found, but none were any use as evidence. By late August 1968, Ronnie Hart was the only person involved in the McVitie murder who was still at large. He knew full well that Read was looking for him, and eventually, at 4.30 a.m. on 31 August, he called Tintagel House and said he was ready to talk. And talk he did, turning Queen’s Evidence and effectively producing the longest account of the McVitie affair the police would get, albeit with certain alterations to the truth designed to save his own skin.
He allegedly went Australia and may still be alive but no information is available.