Reggie Kray’s wife Frances Shea’s diaries: Drunken abuse, weapons and constant isolation

Life with the East End gangster was every bit as dark as you might imagine

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The Independent Online

Reggie Kray slept with armoury of weapons by his bedside, a diary written by his late wife, Frances Shea, reveals.

Shea was married to the East End gangster for two years, before dying of an overdose when she was just 24.

She first met Kray at the age of 16 and married him in 1965 when she was 22. Her five-page diary – which is to be auctioned off tomorrow at Gorringes of Lewes, East Sussex – highlights the difficulties with living with her then husband.

“(He) came back night time. By the side of bed gun, sword, knife, chopper, flick-knife,” she wrote.

“He used to sleep with flick-knife under his pillow.”

Also being sold are 60 letters written by Kray to Shea before they were married and while he was still in prison. The letters start as light and chatty in tone, before fast becoming controlling and aggressive.


In one he describes his future wife as a “spiteful little tormentor” after she “humiliated” him by going dancing with her friends.

Her diary describes how isolated she felt living at their Marble Arch flat, repeatedly being subjected to his swearing and drunken, abusive behaviour.

“(Reggie) came in late every night drunk. Got up every morning two minutes to dress, left me all day came back late at night drunk.

“Went to his house - his brother walked in bedroom in underwear, swore at me.

“Went back to flat Marble Arch, came back night time.”

When she complained to her brother about the Krays gun collection, she was sworn at and the stash taken away by a local publican. Eventually, she was admitted to hospital “for some rest”.

“Him and his friend took me to the hospital, he was swearing and shouting at me in the car.”

 “Couldn’t stand it anymore - left him. When I was packing my suitcases to leave he told me he would bring up fictitious characters against.”

Ronnie and Reggie Kray with new wife Frances Shea in 1965

Shea tried to get their marriage annulled on the grounds that it was never consummated. Eventually, she died following a fatal drug overdose in 1967.

She was buried in the Kray family plot in Chingford, Essex, although her family unsuccessfully tried to have her exhumed and buried elsewhere under her maiden name, Shea.

“They had an unhappy marriage and it seems someone told Frances to write down incidents while she was trying to divorce Reggie,” said Jane Anderson, of auctioneers Gorringes of Lewes.

“It seems life with him was impossible. She spent most of her time alone in their flat and when he was there he was often drunk and he slept in a bed with various weaponry.

“When he was in prison it was safe for her to have a relationship with him.

“But on the outside, she was way out of her depth and was very frightened of Reggie, as anyone would have been."

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