The pounds 39m cocaine scam that gave Kray's life story a surprise endi ng

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The Independent Online
On the evening of 31 July last year Charlie Kray was sitting at home working on a soon-to-be-published biography. It was the final chapter about the great survivor of the gangland family. The one who stayed free while his two brothers languished in prison, one of them dying there.

The knock on the door changed all that. The police had come to arrest him over a pounds 39m cocaine smuggling plot. Various law agencies had targeted him no less than a dozen times over the last 23 years. This was, for 70- year-old Charlie, the unlucky 13th.

He had fallen for a police "sting" operation in which he had offered to supply massive amount of drugs to undercover officers. The proposed transaction had been secretly taped and yesterday he was found guilty of masterminding the drugs plot, which would have flooded Britain's streets with cocaine.

The jury had on Thursday found Kray guilty on one charge of offering to supply 5kg of cocaine every fortnight for two years, and yesterday returned the same verdict on the more serious charge of actually supplying 2kg of the drug.

Judge Michael Carroll deferred until Monday sentencing Kray and his two associates, Ronald Field, 49, and Robert Gould, 39, who had both pleaded guilty to involvement in the plot. As he was returned through the underground tunnel from Woolwich Crown Court in south-east London to the adjacent top security Belmarsh prison, Kray turned to his partner, Judy Stanley, 42, and mouthed "I love you."

The trial had at times resembled, a variety performance. Called as a character witness for Kray, former south London torturer "Mad" Frankie Fraser said " He is a lovely, lovely man. He is as innocent as you are my lord." Turning to prosecuting counsel John Kelsey-Fry QC, he declared " You are probably more into drugs than he is."

Miss UK of l958 described how England was a " much nicer, safer place" when the Kray twins were around. This was confirmed by Charlie Kray who described how they were essentially " kind-hearted people who would help anyone". He had also described how " Ronnie had been buried without his brains", becausethe Home Office wanted to experiment on the grey matter of psychopaths.

This element of bathos was not confined to the defence. When Scotland Yard set up the police operation, detectives were brought in from the North to act as " buyers". Senior officers were worried that the ultra- cautious Kray and his accomplices would suspect anyone with a London accent.

One, using the name "Brian", appeared to forget some of the most basic tenets of undercover work and became intimate with a barmaid at a Birmingham party for a Kray friend. He admitted going to bed with her but denied having a sexual relationship. In court, Michelle Hamdouchi described a night of passion with Brian followed by a massive drinking session with another northern undercover officer, and Victoria Adams of the Spice Girls pop group who they had met at a hotel bar.

Defence counsel Jonathan Goldberg seized on this to hammer home repeatedly to the jury that the police evidence was unreliable and tainted.

One exasperated London detective sighed and said: "You know the film on now about FBI agent Donny Brasco infiltrating the Mob? Well, we had Johnny Fiasco for our job. What we had in mind was infiltration - he went in for penetration."

But behind all this there is a serious issue. In l969 Charlie Kray was convicted of being an accessory to the murder by Reggie Kray of Jack "The Hat" McVitie. Since coming out of prison in l974 he had, the police believe, been involved in constant villainy, taking part among other things in arranging drug deals.

The officer who targeted Kray this time, Detective Superintendent Gavin Robertson, is acknowledged by his peers to be one of the best investigators at Scotland Yard. Among his previous triumphs was the conviction of Rodney Whitchelo, the former policeman turned Heinz baby-food poisoner. He prepared the sting meticulously. The undercover officers "Brian", "Jack" and "Ken" were instructed to spend days merging into the Kray set and not leave themselves open to accusations of entrapment.

Kray did not lead a flashy lifestyle. The home he shared with Ms Stanley, the daughter of a headmaster, in Sanderstead, Surrey, is modest, and he does not own a car. As befits gangland royalty, Kray does not carry any cash. He had no hesitation about taking non-repayable loans from others. One of the undercover officers had to lend him pounds 50 at a party; Scotland Yard never got it back.

He was also an inveterate name dropper. The surveillance tapes are littered with names of the glitterati . In the first two meetings with the undercover officers he had mentioned his acquaintance with Frank Sinatra, George Raft, Judy Garland, Jackie and Joan Collins, Barbara Windsor, Billie Daniels, Denny Laine, Paul Raymond, Archie Moore, and Rocky Marciano.

First contact between the police buyers and Kray was made in Birmingham on 9 May last year. In the next few meetings Kray offered to introduce "Jack" to people who could supply "charlie", street slang for cocaine. They were Ronald Field, of Raynes Park, and Robert Gould, of Wimbledon, both in south London.

A deal was finally struck on 27 June at the Lindon Hall Hotel outside Newcastle between Kray and Field and "Jack" and "Brian". Police tapes showed Kray and Field agreeing to supply 5kg of cocaine every week for up to two years, in return for pounds 31,500 per kg. Over that time it would have netted Kray pounds 8m.