Job descriptions that hid brutal life of a criminal

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The Independent Online
In court, Joseph Pyle's occupation has been given variously as car dealer, street trader, or businessman. In the latest trial he described himself as a film director, although the only film he has directed was a video for pop star Gary Numan. Professional criminal and drug dealer did not appear on his curriculum vitae, although these were his true occupations.

Joey Pyle was one of Britain's biggest, but least known criminals. To many detectives, he was a prized target.

Born in London's east end, Pyle was best man at Charlie Kray's wedding and regularly visited the Kray brothers in prison. He was also a friend to Charles Richardson who led a rival south London gang before being jailed after a jury heard of his notorious torture methods.

At 19 he received what was a rare conviction when he was jailed for three months for stealing cars. Five years later, aged 24, he appeared at the Old Bailey charged with the murder of Selwyn Cooney, a night club owner. If convicted he could have faced the death penalty but the first Pen Club trial, as it was dubbed, was abandoned after jurors were 'approached'.

Pyle was acquitted of murder during a second trial but served an 18-month sentence after being convicted of assaulting Cooney moments before he was shot. He was repeatedly arrested in the years that followed, but constantly escaped prosecution.

He was suspected of organising the escape from prison of Frank Mitchell, known as the Mad Axeman of Broadmoor, and that of Jack 'the Hat' McVitie. Both men later died, McVitie at the hands of the Krays, although Mitchell's fate is uncertain.

In 1977, Pyle, suspected of helping John Bindon, an actor, flee Britain following the fatal stabbing of John Darke, a police informer, was charged with perverting the course of justice. Bindon later returned and was acquitted of murdering Darke. Charges against Pyle were dropped.

During the 1960s and 1970s Pyle organised illegal loans and gambling rackets. He also ran a extortion and protection racket. Vicious fights would break out in pubs after which Pyle would offer 'protection'. Publicans who refused were attacked. Pyle's protection demands became so extortionate that landlords were forced to sell up to him and his associates cheaply.

Unable to combat Pyle, police resorted to objecting to his liquor licences. In 1984, while opposing the licence to a pub in Carshalton, south London, Detective Chief Inspector John Troone said: 'Pyle is mixed up with major criminals at home and abroad in organising serious crime. He travels extensively and sets up drug and protection deals.'

In the 1980s he set up a massive drug dealing operation smuggling up to 200kg (441lb) of cannabis into Britain a week. In 1987 a joint police-customs swoop arrested him after a pounds 5m cannabis smuggling plan was uncovered. The case collapsed when a key witness, a German ship captain, declined to give evidence. Pyle also provided protection and security services to pop impresarios and rock groups. He became an associate of US Mafia figures and the FBI says it has evidence of his close links with members of the Genovese and Gambino crime families.

The FBI says Pyle was closely involved in a Mafia scandal in the United States where radio station executives were bribed with cash, drugs and women to play specific records.

(Photograph omitted)

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