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This Britain

Reggie Kray sent home to die

Dying East End gangster Reggie Kray is reported to be "overjoyed" after Home Secretary Jack Straw ruled today that he should be freed from jail on compassionate grounds.

Dying East End gangster Reggie Kray is reported to be "overjoyed" after Home Secretary Jack Straw ruled today that he should be freed from jail on compassionate grounds.

Mr Straw took the decision following confirmation from a hospital consultant that the 66-year-old is gravely ill and his life expectancy is a matter of weeks, according to the Home Office.

A spokesman said they were satisfied there was no risk of him committing further offences.

The former crime lord, who has spent the last 32 years in jail, is undergoing treatment for cancer of the bladder at the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital and is said to still be conscious.

His lawyers said yesterday he had "days rather than weeks" to live and appealed for him to be allowed to go home to die.

Kray was moved to the hospital three weeks ago from Wayland Prison near Watton, Norfolk, where he is serving a life sentence for murder.

His lawyer, Trevor Linn, had written to Mr Straw requesting compassionate release to allow him the "dignity to die in peace at home".

He said his client's condition was terminal as the cancer was inoperable and would not respond to chemotherapy.

But he said Kray hoped to leave soon to enjoy his freedom and to be reunited with his wife, family and friends: "We are all clearly delighted for both Reggie and Roberta and their immediate circle of family and friends. Reggie was given the news by a prison governor ... and is overjoyed."

Prisoners can apply for compassionate release under section 36 of the 1991 Criminal Justice Act, but they must meet strict criteria showing they have an exceptional case.

Kray's wife, Roberta, 41, has been a constant presence at his bedside. The couple married while Kray was a prisoner and she lives near the prison.

Kray, who comes from Bethnal Green, and his twin brother Ronnie ruled the London underworld from 1957 until they were sentenced to prison in 1969 for the murder of rivals Jack "The Hat" McVitie and George Cornell.

Ronnie Kray died in prison in 1995. Another brother, Charlie, 73, died in April while serving a sentence for drug dealing.

A Home Office spokeswoman said Kray's release could in theory take place today but the date had not been finalised. It would, however, happen "extremely quickly".

It is thought he will try to return home rather than remain in hospital after his release - but Anne Osborn, acting chief executive of the Norfolk and Norwich, said he was currently too ill to leave.

Roberta Kray was planning to meet the prison governor this morning to discuss the terms of the release.

Family friend Maureen Flannigan said: "We are pleased that he is coming home and are looking forward to seeing him over the next few days. Unfortunately he can't even come home to a brother because his two brothers are dead."

Mrs Flannigan said although reports of Reggie's condition were gloomy, she was hopeful that he would battle on a little longer: "Reggie Kray has always been a fighter - it could be weeks but let's hope it is months. We would all love a party to welcome him back."