Reggie, 66, last of the Kray clan, dies of cancer

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The Independent Online

The gangster Reggie Kray, last of the notorious three brothers whose name inspired fear, respect and fawning in equal measure, yesterday died peacefully in his sleep.

The gangster Reggie Kray, last of the notorious three brothers whose name inspired fear, respect and fawning in equal measure, yesterday died peacefully in his sleep.

His death in a four-poster bed in the honeymoon suite of the Town House Hotel, at Thorpe St Andrew, near Norwich, brought to an end a chapter in British criminal history that was as much based on myth as fact. He had apparently been listening to Music to Watch Girls By - a compilation CD of easy-listening hits from the 1950s and 1960s - before falling asleep.

Kray, 66, who was suffering from inoperable bladder cancer, was released from prison on compassionate grounds by the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, in August. He had served 32 years after being jailed for life in 1969 for the murder of Jack "The Hat" McVitie. It is likely he will be buried at London's Chingford Mount cemetery alongside his brothers Ronnie and Charlie who, respectively, died in 1995 and last April.

Yesterday, Kray's solicitor, Mark Goldstein, said his wife, Roberta, and a small circle of friends including his gangland associate Frankie Fraser, were at his bedside. "It is with regret that I have to advise that Mr Kray passed away a short while ago," he said. "He died peacefully in his sleep. I would ask that the press and media respect the wish for Mrs Kray to be allowed to grieve privately."

Kray's contribution to the myth surrounding him and his brothers is published today in the form of his autobiography A Way of Life. Mr Goldstein said it was ironic that Kray would not be alive to see it's publication but that he had seen an advance copy and was happy with it. In it, Kray writes: "Young kids should remember that prison is not a glamorous place. Take a tip from me and look for a career other than crime."

Such words and photographs of the emaciated Kray released from his sick bed in recent weeks have made it all too easy to forget that he was an East End killer who controlled one of the most ruthless criminal gangs ever seen in Britain.

Norman Brennan, director of the Victims of Crime Trust, said: "Reggie Kray was no hero or celebrity and should be remembered as neither. He was a career criminal and a convicted murderer and anyone who believes differently will have forgotten that he held part of east London to ransom."

But Mr Brennan was in the minority. Yesterday, once again, there was no shortage of those prepared to depict as a "gentleman" the man whose stabbing of McVitie with a carving knife was carried out with such savagery that it dislodged the victim's liver. Actress Barbara Windsor, a former girlfriend of Charlie and Reggie, led the tributes, saying: "It's a great loss. People knocked me for talking about him, but you can only speak as you find."

Tony Lambrianou, the man who disposed of McVitie's body by having it crushed into a 3ft cube inside a car - for which he was jailed for 15 years - said: "They were not evil men. Let's get this in perspective here; they done unto those what they would have done to them and this involved other villains."

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