Ex-Page 3 model Maureen Flanagan exposes 40 years with the Krays
PUBLISHED: 07:00 13 August 2015
Former glam model and 1970s’ Page-3 tabloid pin-up Maureen Flanagan has been overwhelmed this week with her first book about her 40 years of involvement with the notorious Kray twins in London’s East End which is now in the nation’s top five selling non-fiction list.
She’s back on Page 3 more than four decades on—but in today’s East London Advertiser rather than the national tabloids.
Maureen, now a grandmum of 74, was the bright young thing of the Swinging Sixties when the Krays ruled London’s gangland from their mum Violet’s little terraced house by the railway arches in Bethnal Green.
She was friends with the Krays and their associates like henchman Chris ‘Mr Fix It’Lambrianou and Freddy Foreman who disposed of rival axeman Frank Mitchell’s body and got 10 years for his troubles.
They turned up for the book launch at Whitechapel’s Blind Beggar—the pub where Ronnie Kray brazenly shot rival gangster George Cornell in 1966 which eventually brought the twins down and got them 30 years behind bars.
It was like a ‘Who’s Who’ reunion of notoriety of the 1960s arriving to support her first book written with co-author Jacky Hyams.
Maureen got to know the Krays ‘publicity junkies’ through her own Fleet Street media career. The 20-year-old model everyone was talking about, who was brought up in Highbury where she went to a convent school, first met older brother Charlie at Islington Boys’ boxing club in 1961 and didn’t know who he was—until someone wised her up about the Krays and the East End’s gangland.
She became a regular visitor to their house at Vallance Road where she got to know the twins’ mum Violet as her regular hairdresser.
“She wouldn’t hear anything wrong about her boys,” Maureen remembers.
“She continued like that through her sons’ trial and all through the years they were in jail.”
Violet, who died in 1982, had been “badly portrayed” in the media and the film about the Krays 20 years ago as a foul-mouthed, domineering matriarch who ruled the crime family with an iron fist.
“She never, ever swore,” Maureen insists. “Ronnie Kray was furious when he learned in prison that the film had her swearing—she never did.
“I knew Violent well, so I wanted to tell the truth because so many bad things have been said about her.”
The Krays moved out of Bethnal Green when the property was demolished during the 1960s East End slum-clearance and were rehoused at Braithwaite House in Finsbury—where the twins were finally arrested in 1968 by armed police smashing down the door in a dawn swoop led by Det Supt Leonard ‘Nipper’ Reid of Scotland Yard.
“Ronnie was arrested in bed with his boyfriend, Reggie with a girl,” Maureen reveals. “Violet wondered how her sons could ever be murderers, because they had helped so many people in the East End.”
Braithwaite House, ironically, is within walking distance of the Old Bailey where the following year the twins, along with older brother Charlie, finally went down in a sensational trial for murder and extortion—including shooting George Cornell at the Blind Beggar in Whitechapel and slaying Jack ‘The Hat’ McVittie at a house in Stoke Newington.
“There were witnesses against the Krays at the trial who had been in Violet’s house in Vallance Road drinking her tea,” Maureen added. “She couldn’t believe what was being said about her sons—the twins had kept their gangland world well away from their mum.
“Violet Kray never accepted the truth, even when visiting the boys in prison. She was in denial.”
Key witness was the barmaid at the Blind Beggar in 1967 who had been standing just a few feet away from Cornell sitting at the bar when Ronnie Kray walked in with a gun and shot him through the head.
Maureen doesn’t condone the Krays’ crimes and killings, yet strangely makes a distinction with “different” murderers.
A killer like Peter Sutcliffe, the Yorkshire Ripper, had murdered 13 women—unlike the Krays’ only targeting rival gangsters, Maureen points out.
“The Krays hated Sutcliff because they couldn’t bear to think of women being hit,” Maureen tells you. “Ronnie seethed at Sutcliffe being anywhere near him when I visited him in Parkhurst.”
Today, the retired Fleet Street model is a devoted ‘family gran’ spending her time running the Paradigm Trust charity shop in Hackney’s Wells Street, not far from her home at London Fields, raising funds for good causes like St Joseph’s Hospice nearby.
But she is never far from the glamour of the media, with her son ‘JJ’ Cox0 a star radio DJ on Kool fm.
Her book, One of the Family—40 Years With the Krays (Century Books, £12.99), dedicated to her four grand-daughters and written with author Jackie Hyams, sold 200 copies in the first 10 minutes at its launch at the Blind Beggar last month.
She had to send a cab to Newham Book Shop, the stockists in Canning Town, to pick up their last 50 copies which all sold as soon as the taxi got back. The book is now in a national list of ‘top five’ selling books.