Gangland memorabilia auction at Blind Beggar for NHS goes 'Kraysy'
- Credit: Mike Brooke
A sale of memorabilia relating to the Kray gangster family, whose reign of terror controlled the East End’s underworld in the 1950s and 60s, has raised £5,000 for the NHS.
It took place at The Blind Beggar in Whitechapel, the pub where Ronnie Kray shot rival gangster George Cornell dead in 1966, and was to raise funds to say thanks to nurses for their work in the Covid emergency.
It was Cornell’s murder, along with Jack ‘The Hat’ McVitie's killing in a flat in Stoke Newington by Ronnie’s twin Reggie in 1967, that led to the downfall of the Kray Firm at the Old Bailey in 1969.
Ronnie died in prison in 1995, while Reggie and their older brother Charlie passed away in 2000.
But decades on, the annual charity fundraiser still draws crowds of people who mingle with "associates" and relatives of the notorious Bethnal Green family.
Charlie Kray’s daughter Nancy, now 56, said she was "overwhelmed” by the event.
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Charlie served seven years for his role in the twins’ gangland enterprise and was released in 1975 — but then arrested for cocaine smuggling in 1997 and died in prison.
“I was involved in the cocaine trial in 1997 which really did me harm," Nancy said.
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“I was supposed to give evidence to save my dad, but someone spiked me that morning before I got to the Old Bailey.
"I suffered a major meltdown afterwards."
The annual gathering is organised by Maureen Flanagan, now in her 80s, who was a page-three tabloid model and a friend of the Kray family, a hairdresser to the twins’ mum Violet, calling at their home in Vallance Road regularly.
Collectors who were not even born at the time of the crimes turned up to buy items linked to the Krays, such as the picture of Flanagan from 1971 which was selling for £10 a print for the NHS.
She was given the memorabilia to auction from well-wishers and also received bottles of spirits, perfume and vouchers to raffle from shops and supermarkets along Bethnal Green's Roman Road and along Wells Street in South Hackney.
The Krays' six-week trial in 1969 got the twins 30 years each. The rest of the firm received between seven and 15 years in a double trial for the murders of Cornell and McVitie, including those not directly involved in the killings.
One of them was Chris Lambrianou, now 82, who turned up at The Blind Beggar on Saturday.
He was at the party in 1967 when Reggie Kray stabbed McVitie in a frenzied attack — but wouldn’t give evidence. His silence got him 15 years for "association" with the Krays' crime empire.
He is not happy with the following the twins still get 50 years after their reign of terror ended.
“It’s like a circus,” he said. “They keep the myth going.”
Dave Courtney, whose security firm ran errands for the Krays when they were inside, was signing copies of his book Stop the Ride — I Want to Get Off.
He recalls: “I was their 'legs and arms' and did all their running around.
“I’m not sticking up for what the Krays did. But back then there was honour among thieves. You would have a bank robber and maybe a cat burglar. Now there's no honour among drug dealers."
Shirley Arlaine, 64, who is a retired school teacher from Old Ford Primary, grew up in Bethnal Green when the Krays were active in the area. She and her friend Sandy Broadway, 53, turned up interested in the folklore and were glad to support the NHS for their curiosity.
At the back of The Blind Beggar today, patrons can still see two bullet holes embedded in the wall on the left when Cornell was shot in 1966. The bullets have never been removed. They are framed with the original wallpaper — just for the curious.