How my chat with Reggie Kray led to experimenting with acid bath murder

It all started with Reggie Kray offering himself and inmates at Parkhurst to help a good cause. The rest is history.


It was an ordinary-looking letter, one of several which arrived on my office desk in those pre-email days some twenty years ago.

What wasn’t ordinary were the words stamped across the front of the envelope: ‘From HMP Parkhurst’.

I opened it. Inside – in a barely-legible scrawl – it said: “Dear Fred. I saw the film on your programme about the little girl. I think I can help. Get in touch.”

It was signed ‘Reg Kray’.

Yes, Reggie Kray. THE Reggie Kray. East End gangland legend. He’d written to me from his cell at Parkhurst where he was serving life for the murder of Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie.

Reg had seen an item on the ITV six o’clock news programme in the south – then called Coast to Coast, now called Meridian Tonight (and both introduced by yours truly!) – about a young girl’s life-saving kidney transplant.

Her grateful Dad wanted to raise money for the hospital to buy some specialised equipment – hence Reggie’s letter. I got back in touch and he told me: “There are some talented artists here in Parkhurst. We could make a lot of money auctioning some of their paintings.” Which is how, some months later, thirteen paintings were auctioned at an event called ‘The Rogues Gallery’.

Twelve of the paintings were real works of art. The thirteenth was a childlike painting of two boxers in a ring. It was signed ‘R.Kray’ – and it made more money than the other twelve combined.

Also auctioned was a magnificent model of a gypsy caravan, made from matches, and painstakingly created by an inmate at Broadmoor Hospital for the Criminally Insane. That had been ‘commissioned’ by Reg’s twin brother Ron, himself serving life for a gangland killing.

Reggie was delighted. He invited me to Parkhurst to meet him – and the rest, as they say, is history. There was the Kray twins’ autobiography, a book with Ronnie about life in Broadmoor, and – a couple of years ago – a documentary about the Kray legacy for Crime & Investigation Network.

That, in turn, led to Fred Dinenage: Murder Casebook on Crime & Investigation Network, which was the brainchild of a talented TV producer called Kate Beal.

Kate’s idea was to look beyond the story of the murder – to analyse the motive, to try and understand why and how it happened, to study the people involved, and to see if others – perhaps unnamed at the trial – had been involved. Basically to look beyond the myth and to try and understand the reality of what really occurred.

She also cleverly partnered me with our resident expert, Professor David Wilson, Director of the Centre for Applied Criminology at Birmingham City University and once Britain’s youngest prison governor.

"We’ve experimented with sulphuric acid and how long it takes to eat flesh and bone (a la the Acid Bath murderer)"

David brings a fresh, lively approach to each investigation. And great knowledge. He KNOWS criminals, he’s worked with them, he’s studied them. He also loves test and trials. We’ve experimented with sulphuric acid and how long it takes to eat flesh and bone (a la the Acid Bath murderer)... we’ve tried drowning (in the nicest possible way!) a young researcher in a bath (the Brides in the Bath murderer)... and we went to the shooting ranges at Bisley to illustrate the difficulty of carrying and accurately firing a heavy handgun (a la Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in England).

There will be more experiments in the new series, in which we put the spotlight on eight more murderers. And fascinating cases they are, too.

Several of them involve serial killers. There’s Patrick Mackay who confessed to killing eleven people in England in the mid-seventies, including a much-respected priest.

Archibald Hall, also known as ‘The Monster Butler’, who committed crimes, including murder, whilst working as a butler for members of the aristocracy.

Mary Bell, convicted in 1968 of the manslaughter of two young boys. Gordon Cummins, known as ‘The Blackout Ripper’, who murdered four women in London during the blackouts of 1942.

Peter Manuel – Scotland’s most prolific serial killer – who murdered nine people in two years between 1956 and 1958.

Raymond Morris, the Cannock Chase killer, who murdered three young girls.

John Straffen, another child-killer, who achieved the dubious honour of being the longest serving prisoner in British legal history.

And the fascinating case of Lord Lucan, the British Peer and suspected murderer who disappeared without trace in November 1974 after the murder of the family nanny Sandra Rivett.

Our experts – including David Wilson – have their own views on what happened to Lucan and whether he could still be alive today. And, if so, where he is.

The whole Murder Casebook experience has been a fascinating journey for me, though I hasten to add that murder has only been a small part of my TV life!

I’ve done a lot of fairly regrettable quiz shows and the like. But it’s in regional TV that I’ve been happiest, because it’s here that you get closest to the viewers. You get a rapport you don’t get anywhere else in broadcasting except, I suspect, local radio.

But no matter how long you’ve been around, it’s still no guarantee of fame and recognition.

During the filming for the new series of Murder Casebook we were filming on a bleak common near Dumfries, in Scotland.

We were being watched by half a dozen young lads on bikes who, I suspect, may have skipped off school!

I was doing fairly endless pieces to camera about murder and serial killers.

During the break in filming one of the young boys said to me:

“Och Mister, do you mind if I ask you a question?”

“Not at all”, I replied, “What is it?”

“Are you a serial killer?” he asked.

“No”, I replied.

“What are you then?” he asked.

“I’m a television presenter”, I replied.

“Do you know anybody famous?” he asked.

“Yes”, I replied.

“Who?” he asked.

“Fred Dinenage”, I replied, jokingly.

“Is he a serial killer?” he asked. He wasn’t joking.

Fred Dinenage: Murder Casebook Series 2 - Sundays at 9pm on Crime & Investigation Network (Sky 553 and Virgin Media 237)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Application Developer / Software Developer

£21000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software development compa...

Recruitment Genius: Brand Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Do you wish to be part of an exciting journey ...

Guru Careers: Talent Manager

£30-35k (P/T - Pro Rata) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienc...

Anna Woodward: Invoicing Clerk

£21,500: Anna Woodward: The Accounts Payable team for this group is recruiting...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Jihadi John went to my university – so what?

James Tennent

Japan's torture of my father was horrific — so why are they considering watering down the apology for their wartime past?

Liz Bestic
HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower