Krays cousin Rita Smith dies in Bethnal Green aged 79
PUBLISHED: 16:31 01 October 2015 | UPDATED: 13:33 03 October 2015
One of the last cousins of the notorious Kray twins has died at her home in London's East End.
Rita Smith, who passed away last month aged 79, was found by her daughter Kim when she called in at her home in Bethnal Green's Charles Dickens House in Mansford Street.
Rita grew up half-a-mile away in Vallance Road, just two doors along from the Krays. The twins treated her like a little sister.
She said in an East London Advertiser interview last year: “I used to go into their house all the time. We were always in each others’ houses.
“Once when we were kids playing, my aunt Violet and my mum caught the twins smoking—and wallop. Violet gave them such a wallop.”
As the years passed, the twins became evermore fond and protective of their little cousin growing up as a teenager.
“When I left school, Reggie took me up the Tottenham Royal dancing one night,” Rita recalled.
“A fella at the dance started touching me—he wouldn’t stop. I could see Reggie looking at him white with temper.
“They were going to shoot him if he didn’t stop, shoot his legs off—I felt terrible.”
Rita was proud of the Krays and kept a special family photo album which included pictures of the twins as babies as well as snaps of Reggie’s tragic wife Frances, who took her own life in 1967.
She recalled: “Reggie used to say, before he met Frances, if I wasn’t his cousin he’d marry me.”
Rita admitted she never saw “the darker side” of Ronnie and Reggie, who ruled east London’s underworld with extortion and violence in the 1950s and 60s until they finally went down at the Old Bailey in 1969 for murder.
They were Rita’s family—“like brothers to me”.
Rita went to Daneford Secondary in the late 1940s, now Bethnal Green Academy, and later worked in the clothing trade in Whitechapel as a machinist. She died on September 9 from bronchial pneumonia.
One other cousin of the Krays, retired lorry-driver Joseph Lee, 92, is living in Essex, near Southend.