Police aware of Krays' threat years before notoriety, documents reveal

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The Independent Online

Police were worried that the Kray twins would extend their rule of violence and intimidation across London four years before their criminal organisation became notorious, confidential documents released yesterday show.

Police were worried that the Kray twins would extend their rule of violence and intimidation across London four years before their criminal organisation became notorious, confidential documents released yesterday show.

Scotland Yard's Flying Squad was concerned in 1960 that the twins would try to move their fledgling operation in east London into the West End and trigger a war with rival criminal gangs.

An assessment of Ronnie and Reggie Kray's activities was drawn up in May of that year in response to a complaint from the twins' solicitors, Lincoln and Lincoln, that they were being investigated – four years before they came to public attention through press reports about associations with a peer.

Detective Superintendent Tom Butler describes how they had built up a "formidable criminal association" with the Nash family – another gangster fraternity – were poised to expand their activities, and were already attracting media attention.

"They are well known in London's criminal circles as The Twins," he wrote. "They have organised the 'protection' technique and the keystones of their confederacy are violence and intimidation. At present this is mainly ... operating in the East End of London. That they will spread their operations to other districts in due course may be taken for granted."

Det Supt Butler said the Krays had succeeded in intimidating prosecution witnesses during a murder trial of one of the Nash family, leading to his acquittal – a verdict that would enhance their "already widespread villainous reputation".

His assessment reveals police concern that the twins would be glamorised by the media. He described their Double R club as a "sink of iniquity" frequented by journalists. "Every visitor to it is either a convicted criminal or one of the many degraded lower-class newspaper reporters seeking colour, drama or so-called atmosphere for rubbishy news items," he wrote. Det Supt Butler believed that within 12 months, the Krays' would extend their protection rackets to West End clubs and betting shops as well as private gambling and striptease parties.

His fears are revealed in one of 300 documents contained in 50 Metropolitan Police files released by the Public Record Office yesterday. They were to have been kept secret until 2030 but have been released early – with the names of informants blanked out – after a request from Harry Cohen, MP for Leyton and Wanstead.

Mr Cohen had been told the documents contained the names of politicians and members of the Royal Family but that was not borne out.

One document reveals police optimism that they may have stopped the Krays introducing US-style protection rackets to Britain. After Reggie was jailed in 1959 for demanding money from a shopkeeper, three police officers on the case were pur forward for commendation.

Their actions were said to have "quickly brought to an end an undoubted attempt by three convicted criminals to introduce into London the despicable American protection racket".

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