Kray fans turn out to reconcile Ronnie with God

The legend of the Krays has spread to a second generation, as junior followers are brought up to worship and adore the gangster twins. Six-year-old Ryan knelt at the grave of Ronnie Kray and, with as much ceremony as he could summon, laid a series of white carnations at the foot of the granite slab.

"Why me?" he asked his mother, as the pack of photographers zoomed in on him. "Put these in the pot, yeah," replied Nikki, 32, whose uncle "used to knock around with Reg".

It was a perfect spring day. The avenues of daffodils in Chingford Mount cemetery and the birdsong ringing in the air were a million miles away from the murky underworld in which the Krays operated. But, as the words engraved on a plaque on Ronnie's grave said: "The kiss of the sun for pardon, the song of the bird for mirth, one is nearer to God in a garden than anywhere else on earth."

The congregation had gathered together "to try and help reconcile Ron with God and help him find peace," according to the Rev Ken Rimini, vicar of St Matthew's in Bethnal Green, east London, who was leading the service at 11am yesterday. The occasion marked the second anniversary of the death of Ronnie Kray, but unlike at the funeral two years ago, when east London was heaving with crowds, attendance was scanty.

It was not an A-list celebrity event. There was no Frankie Fraser, no Barbara Windsor and no Mike Reid, all celebrated supporters of the Krays, though John Redgrave, second cousin to the actress Vanessa, felt sure there would be a fuller turn-out next year, particularly if Reg was out of prison.

As the synthesiser keyboard accompaniment to "Abide with me" peeled off, the 40-odd followers stared intently at the decorated grave. The formal proceedings were over, but Ryan was none the wiser why he was there. "It's for Ronnie," Nikki said. "They love 'im. They wouldn't be here otherwise."

"What, these kids love 'im?" asked Ryan, pointing at a pair of five-year- old twins. "Yeah. All these kids love 'im and when you grow up, your kids will love them too."

Others at the memorial service were more clued up. Many knew the protagonists personally. David Courtney, 38, knew "the men not the myth". "I do all the work for the Krays - good and bad," he said, blue eyes twinkling.

Charlie Kray, 70, Ronnie's elder brother, who is remanded in custody awaiting trial on charges of taking part in an alleged cocaine ring, was Mr Courtney's "next-door-neighbour" in prison. "I look after [Charlie] when he's home and I look after him when he's in," boasted Mr Courtney.

"I just got `not guilty,'" he continued, a mischievous look on his face. "Quite rightly so. Crime doesn't pay. I had faith in the British justice system."

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