Still no pity for Cornell murder at Whitechapel's Blind Beggar by Kray family 50 years on
PUBLISHED: 15:14 14 March 2016 | UPDATED: 10:44 15 March 2016
There seems no pity for George Cornell's murder at Whitechapel's Blind Beggar pub by notorious gangster Ronnie Kray half-a-century later.
Yesterday’s 50th anniversary of Cornell’s killing at the bar was marked by a charity memorabilia sale organised by friends of the Kray family to raise money for Bethnal Green’s famous Repton boxing club, where Ronnie and his twin Reggie and older brother Charlie once trained.
Kray fans who weren’t even born when the crime family dominated London’s shadowy underworld in the 1950s and 60s arrived at the Blind Beggar from all over the country—many with young children—from as far as Wolverhampton, Bristol and Worcester.
They came for souvenir mugs, T-shirts, photos and books on the Krays, have their pictures taken in the bar where Ronnie blasted Cornell with a bullet to the head and to mingle with former underworld figures who turned up like Toby Judge, Steve Wrath and “Dodger” Steve Tully, the ex-bank robber from Bow who became Reggie Kray’s “pupil” and cellmate in prison. Charlie Kray’s former business partner John Corbett also arrived.
Five decades have passed since Cornell’s shooting, but relatives of the Krays living today in Bethnal Green feel no remorse.
“I stand by my cousin—if Ronnie hated the man there was a reason,” Kim Peat told the East London Advertiser.
“We don’t feel guilty. If Cornell was an innocent, nice bloke, then probably.
“But he was a flash bloke who threatened the twins and the family and got what was coming to him.
“It may seem harsh and unforgiving—but I’m like that.”
Kim, 55, remembers the twins as a child during those troubled times. She grew up on tales her mother Rita Smith told her of her younger days going to dances with the twins. Rita—their first cousin—died last year aged 79.
“I don’t care what they done—whatever happened, happened,” Kim tells you. “They done it for a reason.
“Ronnie was asked before he died if he ever regretted killing Cornell and he said he didn’t. Ronnie hated Cornell, so he killed him—and that’s that.”
Sunday’s fundraiser was the brainchild of former Page 3 pin-up Maureen Flanagan, now 75, who was the twins’ mother Violet’s hairdresser calling at the Krays’ home in Vallance Road each week.
She launched her own book about her friendship with the family at the Blind Beggar last summer, with many of their gangland henchman now in their 70s and 80s turning up.
One of the henchmen was Chris Lambrianou, who stayed away from the Blind Beggar on Sunday “out of respect for Cornell” who he knew long before joining the Krays’ gang.
But Maureen insisted: “We’re not celebrating Cornell’s murder.
“I’m doing it for the Repton club, where the Krays learned how to look after themselves, like we’re trying to do for the young people in the East End.”
Her Paragon charity shop in Well Street, South Hackney, had already raised £500 for the Repton last week and she handed club chairman Dave Robinson a cheque yesterday. She also handed another £150 raised from an auction of Krays souvenirs to the club today. “We’re not celebrating anyone’s death,” Flanagan insisted.
“Ronnie Kray was determined to kill Cornell. He thought it would be the perfect murder, because no-one would talk. But it took a year for police to work on the barmaid—they got here as a witness in the end.”
Cornell grew up in Bethnal Green with the Krays—but they never forgave him for joining up with their rival Richardson mob in Elephant & Castle.
Turning up in Whitechapel was “too much” for Ronnie Kray, who walked into the pub and shot him at point-blank range.
Another bullet fired by an accomplice into the wall of the pub still lodges in the brickwork, long-since plastered over.