One night we invited Charlie Kray over for tea. There was me our Michael, Charlie and Paul Ferris. We had a great night and it was nice to have such a good friendship with people like that – they were a much better class of criminal than the usual vagabonds and ruffians that would call by!
Being Category AA meant I wasn’t allowed to work during the day, so the screws would let Charlie out of his cell and he’d automatically come to my cell and we’d have a cup of tea. They’d open the door from 2-4pm and I had the chance to spend a bit of time with him and get to know him better. He would tell me stories about London and the night life and I found them all very interesting. I told him that my family originated from the east end of London from a place called Stepney. He knew the manor well and it was great to have some common ground like that. With meeting so many villains over the years, a lot of it can be a kind of ‘false friendship’ and you get wise to it from the off. To spend time with someone like Charlie who’d been there and done it was different altogether. Sitting two hours at a time where it’s just the pair of you with a screw bringing you tea and biscuits, well, you get to know someone properly.
He’d been in Frankland for about three and a half months now and was due a visit from his brother, Reggie. We were having our usual cuppa and natter when a screw popped his head round the cell door. He told Charlie that he had to go with him as he had a call from Reggie. It seemed a little strange and when he returned he looked shattered. Reg had been diagnosed with cancer and Charlie took the news badly. His own health was also deteriorating and this news seemed to speed up the process. Doctors were called into see him and they advised that he be moved to a more suitable prison.
On his final day at Frankland, Charlie requested the screws open my door so he could say his goodbyes. I’ll never forget his last few words of advice.
‘Stephen, don’t let what’s happened to me and my brothers happen to you and your brothers. Don’t let them get you. Don’t die in prison. God bless ya, mate.’
Charlie knew he was dying and we knew we’d never see each other again. He passed away three weeks later.
They knew plenty and used their strengths to become very influential people in London in the 60s. When I was a kid and I heard stories about the Krays and their like it wasn’t the infamy and reputations I was interested in; I was more interested in where they had failed because I had no intentions of making the same mistakes. Although I liked him as a person, there was nothing glamorous about poor Charlie Kray in his latter days. He died a sad and lonely man in prison with nobody to support him and I can honestly say, hand on heart, that if this is where a life of crime leads to then I’m glad I’ve retired. Because of their crimes but mainly because of their name, the authorities were able to make examples of them. If there are any similarities between us and them, I’d like it to end with crime and name only.
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