Birthday: October 24, 1933
Died At Age: 61
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Also Known As: Ronnie Kray, Ronald James Kray
Born in: Haggerston, London, England
Notorious As: Gangster
Spouse/Ex-: Roberta Jones (m. 1997), Frances Shea (m. 1965 - died. 1967)
Died on: March 17, 1995
place of death: Slough, England
Who was Ronald Kray?
Ronald Kray was an English gangster from the 1960s. He along with his twin brother, Reginald, was the most famous and brutal criminal of the time. They built a real empire through terrible crime and violence. But at the same time, they were active in the social life, surrounding themselves with celebrities and partying like they were part of the high society. They owned a club in the West End and organized parties attended by all sorts of famous people, including politicians. Even though many of their crimes were committed in plain sight, authorities couldn’t touch them because all potential witnesses were too scared to talk. But that ended on May 8, 1968, when detective Superintendent Leonard ‘Nipper’ Read arrested them. They were convicted and Ronald spent the rest of his life at Broadmoor Hospital, as he had been certified insane. He died in 1995 from a heart attack.
Childhood & Early Life
Ronald ‘Ronnie’ Kray was born on October 24, 1933, in Hoxton, East London, ten minutes after his twin brother, Reggie. His entire life was closely connected to that of his brother, as they not only shared a birthday but also a career in crime.
His parents were Charles David Kray and Violet Annie Lee and had a six-years-old brother named Charles James (Charlie) and a sister who had died before their birth.
The twins contracted diphtheria at an early age and while Reggie recovered quickly, Ronnie suffered from complications and nearly died. Because his condition was so serious, they kept him isolated in the hospital until his mother decided she would take him home and take care of him herself. After rejoining his brother, Ronnie miraculously made a quick recovery. But the damage done by the illness was permanent and led to mental problems when he grew up.
They attended Wood Close School and then Daniel Street School but that would not be the foundation for their future life. Instead, they were inspired by their grandfather Jimmy ‘Cannonball’ Lee to begin boxing and got quite good at it. They participated in the London Schools Boxing Championship and even made it to the finals. Ronnie was more aggressive and unpredictable than his brother. But in one fight against Reggie, he suffered a serious head injury that was considered a reason for his mental instability later on.
While they were teenagers, the twins formed a band and got into serious problems with the law, but managed not to get arrested. They kept boxing, but Ronnie’s brutality went beyond the boxing ring as he wanted to fight anyone who would annoy him.
In 1952 they were drafted for the National Service, ran away and got caught and turned over to the army, after having punched the corporal in charge. They went to prison where they behaved so badly that they were dishonorably discharged from the army. They also lost their boxing careers because they had a criminal record.
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Ronnie and his brother began their career in crime when they bought an old snooker club and started several protection rackets there. They also became involved in hijackings, armed robbery, arson and many other crimes through which they expanded their nightclubbing business. As a result, Ronnie went to prison in 1960. In the meantime, Reggie got a nightclub called Esmeralda’s Barn, where they would run their operations. They also formed a gang called ‘The Firm.’
Their status of club owners made them famous and brought them to the heights of London social life. They socialized with politicians, lords, actors and were photographed in their company by David Bailey. Ronnie said in his autobiography, ‘They were the best years of our lives.’
Ronnie was the most violent one, although his temper would oscillate according to the dose of Stemetil he was getting. It sometimes felt like he had two personalities, which only made people fear him more.
In July 1964, Ronnie was involved in a press scandal when Sunday Mirror wrote that he was in a sexual relationship with Lord Boothby. That was a huge problem because homosexuality was considered a crime at that time. After making threats and using their social connections, the newspaper not only retracted the article and paid a settlement, but also didn’t print anything about their criminal activities.
Ronnie’s temper became more difficult to control and in March 1966 he shot George Cornell, a member of a rival gang, right in the head in a pub in the middle of the day. As always, witnesses were too scared to say anything and Ronnie had to be released.
Ronnie Kray’s most highlighted crime was probably the murder of Jack McVitie, over failing to fulfill a contract to kill Leslie Payne. Ronnie and Jack got into a fight, and Kray shot him twice but the gun didn’t fire, so he had to stab McVitie to death. The twins’ associates saw that as a problem, as Ronnie was out of control and they feared for their own lives, so people started talking to the police. That helped the authorities finally convict them and send them to prison.
Ronnie and Reggie were sentenced to life imprisonment in March 1969 for the murders of Cornell and McVitie. Ronnie was labeled a Category A prisoner and had no liberties. Eventually, in 1979, he was certified insane, as he suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. He needed constant medication, so he was committed to Broadmoor Hospital until his death.
Family & Personal Life
Ronnie declared in his autobiographical book, ‘My Story,’ that he was bisexual. The love of his life was a woman named Monica whom he wanted to marry, but he went to prison, and she ended up marrying Ronnie’s ex-boyfriend. However, they continued to write to each other.
Ronald had two marriages that ended in divorce - one with Elaine Mildener in 1985, and the other with Kate Howard.
He died at the age of 61 from a heart attack, on March 17, 1995.