Crime

All posts tagged Crime

Wapping-Police-Museum-Header
When you approach Wapping Police Station from Wapping High Street, the modest building looks fairly innocuous. Almost dwarfed by the buildings of Aberdeen Wharf on the right and St John’s Wharf on the left, it is perhaps difficult to imagine that this is the birthplace of the oldest police force in the world.

In the East End of eighteenth century London, importers were losing £500,000 of goods (that is a staggering £46 million at today’s rates) each year to theft. Estimates are not available for the theft of exports…

A way was sought to prevent or at the very least reduce the level of crime, and a proposal was put forward in 1797 to create a body of men who could patrol the Thames by John Harriot, an Essex Justice of the Peace. Following his plans being put before the West India Merchants and Planters Committees, funding was obtained and the creation of the Marine Police began on 2nd July 1798 in the building that still houses the Marine Support Unit of the Metropolitan Police.

An initial force of around 50 river officers were trained and armed. They needed to be. It was estimated that almost 11,000 of the 33.000 people who worked the river trades were known criminals. The reaction to the new force was understandably hostile as the river thieves found that were losing an easy living.

Wapping-Police-Museum

Wapping Police Museum

A riot took place outside the station when around 2,000 men arrived with every intention of torching the place with the magistrates and some police officers inside. Whilst Harriot was able (and brave enough) to successfully disperse the riot, one of his officers, Gabriel Franks, was shot and died later in hospital. He became the first recorded police death.

The government became convinced of the benefits of the Marine Force (particularly after receiving letters confirming that the deterrent of a regular, patrolling force was working) and in July 1800 moved the force from private to public control. The force flourished, and became well established in the East End. In 1811, it was a Marine Police Force Officer who was first on the scene of the dreadful Ratcliffe Highway Murders. Eventually in 1839, the control of the Marine Force (together with other independent law enforcement groups like the Bow Street Runners) passed to the newly formed Metropolitan Police Force.

Nowadays, the station is home to the Marine Police Unit who continue to patrol the Thames – but the building also houses the wonderful Thames River Police Museum. This is to be found in what used to be the old carpenters workshop, and gives a fascinating glimpse into the origins of the world’s oldest police force.

Visits can be made to the Museum, on a strictly appointment only basis, and the request must be made in writing. Tours are run by two retired members of the River Police who guide you around the various exhibits, and upon entering the museum visitors are confronted with a wide range of historical artefacts. Many models exist of the type of vessels that they’ve used in the past, together with old nautical uniforms, weapons, trophies and such like.

Wapping-Police-Museum-Exhibits

Wapping Police Museum Exhibits

One item that takes pride of place is the ensign of the ill-fated paddle steamer Princess Alice. This steamer, returning from an evening trip to Gravesend on 3rd September 1878 was struck by the coal carrier Bywell Castle and split in two. She sank within four minutes and over 650 people perished in the cold and polluted water of the Thames.

It was recommended at the enquiry into the Princess Alice disaster that the Thames Division should have steam launches to enable them to respond quicker to emergencies rather than the rowing boats that had been previously used…

 

 

 

 

Should you wish to visit the museum, please send your enquiries to:

Thames Police Museum
Wapping Police Station
Wapping High Street
Wapping, London, E1W 2NE

And enclose a stamped self-addressed envelope.

London-Burkers-Header
A couple of days before Guy Fawkes night in 1831, 10 year old John King and his 11 year old sister Martha were hanging out the washing to help their invalided mother at their home in Crabtree Road, at the northern end of Bethnal Green. Looking across the road to the Bird Cage public house in Nova Scotia Gardens, they noticed a boy, slightly older than themselves, who waved before uttering something in a foreign language that the two children couldn’t understand. It was the last time they were to see 14 year old Italian Carlo Ferrier alive – The London Burkers had struck again…

Nova Scotia Gardens was an area of the East End, just to the north-east of St Leonard’s Church in Shoreditch that had been extensively used to extract clay for brick making. Once the clay field had been exhausted the area begun to be filled in with ‘leystall’ waste, quite literally excrement. Some dwellings, mainly small cottages, were built in the area, but were largely undesirable as, being built on the lower ground of the clay pits, they were prone to flooding. The properties were to attract the lowest, most desperate kind of tenants…

The-London-Burkers

The London Burkers – Bishop, Williams and May

Four such individuals were Thomas Williams, John Bishop, a Covent Garden porter called Michael Shields and an unemployed butcher called James May.

In the 18th century, demand for anatomical cadavers was high – around 500 were needed each year to meet demands, and the bodies of convicted and hanged criminals met that requirement. However, whilst hundreds were executed during the 18th century, the mid 19th century saw just 55 being hanged each year. Demand clearly outstripped supply and it was into this lucrative market that Williams, Bishop, Shields and May were drawn.

Modelling their activities on the notorious Burke and Hare, two grave robbers in Scotland, these ‘London Burkers’, bodysnatchers or so called ‘resurrectionists’ would dig up and sell fresh cadavers to the anatomists and surgeons at St Bartholomew’s Hospital, St Thomas’ Hospital and Kings College. Bishop, in a subsequent confession, admitted to stealing between 500 and 1000 bodies in this manner over a twelve year period. However, the Burkers needed even more bodies…

On Saturday 5th November 1831, May and Bishop delivered the suspiciously fresh body of a young boy to William Hill, the porter of the dissecting room at King’s College, Somerset House and demanded twelve guineas for the corpse. May and Bishop tipped the corpse out of a hamper and pointed out to a startled Hill how fresh the body was. When questioned how the boy had died, both May and Bishop claimed they didn’t know, and that it was ‘no business of theirs’. Hill called Richard Partridge, the Demonstrator of Anatomy at the college to examine to body, and he alerted the Professor of Anatomy, Herbert Mayo. Mayo immediately called the police and the resurrectionists were duly arrested and remanded in custody…

The-Burkers-in-the-Dock

The London Burkers in the Dock

Two weeks later, Joseph Sadler, a Superintendent with F division of the Metropolitan Police searched the cottage at Nova Scotia Gardens. He found numerous items of clothing in the gardens and in a well at the property, all of which suggested multiple murders. Williams and Shields were duly arrested and placed with May and Bishop. Upon questioning, it became apparent that the men had been complicit in the murder of a woman, Frances Pigburn and another boy named Cunningham who they had found sleeping rough in a pig market in Smithfield. Both had been taken back to Nova Scotia Gardens, drugged with a mixture of warm beer, sugar, rum and laudanum. They were then hung upside down and drowned in the well at the property.

The men were tried collectively, but the testimony of Bishop and Williams cleared the remaining two members of the gang, who appeared to have been mere ‘delivery men’ in the affair. Bishop, aged 33 and Williams, aged 26 were found guilty and both were hanged at Newgate on 5th December 1831 in front of a crowd of 30,000 onlookers. Their bodies were subsequently cut down and dispatched to anatomical establishments – for dissection…

Jack-the-Ripper-Mini-Series-1988-Header
One of the problems facing anyone wishing to make a film about the infamous serial killer, Jack the Ripper, is that we already know history has yet to deliver up a perpetrator. Many suspects have been put forward over the years, but none have proved conclusive. So when filmmakers set about documenting the life of the East End’s most notorious son, they often let their imagination get the better of them, and we invariably end up with a fantasy film with little grasp or adherence to the known facts.

Jack The Ripper Mini-Series

Michael Caine and Jane Seymour in ‘Jack the Ripper’ Mini-series

Happily, this was not the case in the Jack the Ripper mini-series produced in 1988 by director and producer David Wickes. Although the series itself still had a number of historical flaws (just see the busy London street scene complete with horse drawn omnibus which gives an extremely sanitised view of a street of the time – they were normally ankle deep in horse droppings!) Wickes tried to stick to the case facts and reproduce the murder scenes as accurately as possible.

The film stars Michael Caine in the role of Inspector Frederick Abberline (a cockney in the starring role – albeit from the wrong side of the river!) who is assigned the unfolding series of Whitechapel Murders in 1888. His co-worker and co-star in the film is Sergeant George Godley played by the late Lewis Collins, and the cast are ably assisted by Susan George and Lysette Anthony who play the doomed prostitutes Katherine Eddowes and Mary Jane Kelly. Jane Seymour plays a talented artist, Emma Prentiss and the actor Armand Assante plays the famous American actor Richard Mansfield (and who excels himself in his nightly portrayal of the eponymous Doctor Jekyll and Mr Hyde on stage, transforming himself in front of a terrified audience).

Before the film was broadcast, David Wickes claimed that he had been given exclusive access to the files and documentation of the Jack the Ripper case from Scotland Yard, and that his film would reveal the true identity of Jack the Ripper for the first time. Wickes was challenged over the claim and had to withdraw his statement, but has gone a long way to present a convincing case. A number of red herrings are thrown into the plot with suspects ranging from Richard Mansfield himself to Prince Albert Victor, the Grandson of Queen Victoria.

jack-the-ripper-1988--Michael-Caine-and-Lewis-Collins

Michael Caine and Lewis Collins in ‘Jack the Ripper’ mini-series

Unlike many films today, the Jack the Ripper mini-series does not descend into a gory bloodbath and uses more subtle ways of conveying the terrifying attacks on the prostitutes. Despite this, the viewer is still treated to some fairly harrowing verbal descriptions of the injuries.

So – is it a good film? That will depend on the viewer’s own tastes and preconceptions. Michael Caine does a fine job and the subject matter, although well-known is delivered in a fairly intelligent and non-sensationalistic way.

The film ends with the disclaimer that –

‘In the strange case of Jack the Ripper; there was no trial and no signed confession. In 1888, neither fingerprinting nor blood typing was in use and no conclusive forensic, documentary or eye-witness testimony was available. Thus, positive proof of The Ripper’s identity is not available.

We have come to our conclusions after careful study and painstaking deduction. Other researchers, criminologists and writers may take a different view. We believe our conclusions to be true.’

Israel Lipski

Israel-Lipski-Header
Shortly before lunch on Tuesday 28th June, 1887, the Whitechapel Police burst through the door of 16 Batty Street, having been alerted by other tenants that the occupier, a young woman called Miriam Angel had not been seen that morning. Upon entering the room, the police found the woman lying naked, dead on her bed with evidence of Nitric Acid burns around her mouth, and over her hands and breasts. She was found to be six months pregnant at the time.

Lying partly hidden under her bed was the unconscious body of Israel Lipski, a Polish Jew who lived in the same house. Given a sharp slap to the face, he awoke, and was duly arrested by the Police for the murder of the victim.

Israel Lipski (1865 – August 21, 1887) was born Israel Lobulsk, and had lived in the East End of London for some time.  Described as a mild-looking, open-faced young fellow of just 22, Lipski worked as an umbrella stick salesman who employed two other Jews, Harry Schmuss and Henry Rosenbloom. After being dragged from beneath the bed, it was discovered that Lipski too, had some acid burns inside his own mouth, and Lipski protested his innocence claiming the crime had been committed by Schmuss and Rosenbloom. Nevertheless, the Police placed him under arrest while he lay in the London Hospital, Whitechapel Road.
Israel Lipski under the bed

Lipski was tried and sentenced to death, but the trial was dogged with controversy, with claims of anti-Semitism levelled at the Judge and Jury. The then Home Secretary, Henry Matthews, showed apathy towards Lipski’s plight and he was duly hanged at Newgate Prison Yard on the morning of August 21st 1887.

So, was Lipski innocent? Reproduced below is an account of the trial taken from the Southland Times in October 1887 and the reader can decide for themselves.

“The prisoner and his victim (a young married woman named Miriam Angel) lived in the same house in Batty Street, Whitechapel, Lipski occupying a top back room, where he carried on the trade of a manufacturer of walking sticks, having a man and a boy as his assistants. On the morning of the 28th of June the husband of Miriam Angel rose at six, and went to work, leaving his wife in bed. At seven o’clock Lipski let into the house the boy who worked for him, and then went out himself to make some purchases. Among these was an ounce of nitric acid or aqua Fortis, which he procured from an oilman in Backchurch Lane. About nine o’clock Lipski asked his landlady to fetch him some coffee, it was duly brought but Lipski was not in his room, and on the landlady calling upstairs to him the boy replied that his master was not there. The theory of the prosecution was that just about this time Lipski had entered the room where Miriam Angel was in bed.

About eleven in the forenoon the people of the house began to be uneasy about Mrs Angel, who usually came down between eight and nine. Soon afterwards the handle of the door was tried, and it was found to be locked on the inside. The door was burst open, and the woman was found lying dead on the bed.  A medical man, who was at once sent for, deposed that when he was called Miriam Angel had been dead about three hours. There was no rigor mortis. She was without clothes, and her hair was dishevelled; there were stains of nitric acid on her mouth, her face, her breasts, and her hands, which were covered by the burning fluid. The right eye was discoloured, and over the right temple was a patch of extravasated blood, where the muscle had been reduced to a pulp by the infliction of (the doctor held) at fewest four violent blows. Stepping over the corpse and looking down between the bed and the wall, in search of the bottle of poison which he naturally thought must be somewhere about, the medical man espied Israel Lipski lying in his shirt sleeves on his back, partially under the bed. He was unconscious, but on the doctor hitting him a smart slap on the face he opened his eyes wide. The police took him towards a window, and it was then seen that his lips were stained with nitric acid. He was asked in English and German what he had taken, but he made no reply. He was removed to the hospital, but, as from the first he had been the object of suspicion, the police never left him until he was formally charged with the murder, and a constable in plain clothes sat by his bedside day and night until he was convalescent.
Israel Lipski

Meanwhile a post-mortem examination of the remains of Miriam Angel had been made. It was found that the back of the throat was charred, and that a considerable quantity of nitric acid had gone down through the larynx and the trachea into the stomach, indicating that it had been poured down the throat while the victim was in a state of insensibility. But how, it may be asked, did she become insensible? The doctor was of opinion that the four blows on the temple had been fully sufficient to stun the deceased young woman, and that it was not until she was stunned that the poison had been administered to her. It was estimated that half an ounce of aqua Fortis had been given to her and that the immediate cause of death was suffocation by the acid going down the windpipe and closing the air passage. As regard Lipski, the medical evidence was to the effect that he had taken scarcely enough aqua Fortis to produce unconsciousness, but that the state of syncope was the result of mental perturbation.

In fine, the hypothesis of the prosecution amounted to this: that there was a small window commanding a view of Mrs Angel’s room; that the murderer, whoever he was, had seen Mrs Angel in bed from that window; that he came downstairs and entered her room for an immoral purpose; that, foiled in his design, he dealt his victim the blows which had produced insensibility, and that he then poisoned her, and ultimately, frenzied by horror, remorse and shame, endeavoured to commit suicide himself. The bottle which had contained the nitric acid was found; but it is not known whether the key was in the door, which was found to be locked inside. If the key was there, there can be no possible doubt as to Israel Lipski having been the murderer of Miriam Angel. The assistant to the oilman in Backchurch Lane swore that, to the best of his belief, the man who on the morning of the 28th June purchased from him a pennyworth of aqua Fortis was Israel Lipski, who explained that he wanted the stuff for the purpose of staining canes, and that the oilman’s assistant warned him that the acid was poisonous.

This explanation was as feasible as it would have been had Lipski said at the oil shop that he was a copperplate engraver, and that he required the aqua Fortis to bite in a plate withal. But what did he want in Miriam Angel’s bedroom in his shirt sleeves and with a bottle of aqua Fortis upon him; and, if the key were in the lock of the door which was found to be fastened on the inside, who on earth except Israel Lipski could possibly have committed the murder? Stains of nitric acid were found on his coat, and, singularly enough, there were acid marks on the clothes of Miriam Angel’s husband; but these marks, it was suggested, might have been caused by their having come in contact with the coat referred to. How did they come in contact? One of the most damaging features of the evidence against Lipski is the falsehood he told about having had a sovereign in his pocket on the morning of the murder, when it was conclusively proved that when arrested he only had a few shillings from his landlady. Next in importance in the array of facts marshalled against Lipski, was his own extravagant and incredible version of the affair. It was Inspector Final, of the Metropolitan Police, who was on duty at the Leman Street Station when Lipski was brought in on the morning of the murder partially insensible, and it was this official who found in his pocket only three shillings in silver and a pawn-ticket. The Inspector visited Lipski at the hospital, where the prisoner made, through an interpreter, the statement that at seven in the morning of the 20th a man who had worked for him came to him and asked for employment, and that he told this person to wait until he had bought a vice for use at his labour. He added that the tool-shop where he meant to buy the vice was still closed; that as he was going along he met another German workman, whom he knew, at the corner of Backchurch Lane; he then returned to the tool shop, which by this time was open, but he could not agree with the shopkeeper as to the price of the vice, and came away without it.
Israel-Lipski-Penny-Illustrated

On his way home he again met the man whom he had seen at the top of Backchurch Lane, and who also asked him for work. Lipski told this man that he was going to have his breakfast, but bade him come along a little later on to the workshop, when he promised to engage him. He returned to Batty Street and asked the landlady to make him some coffee, and while it was being made he despatched the first man who had called on him at seven for some brandy.

Down to this point Lipski’s statement is plain sailing enough, but now comes the extraordinary and incredible portion of the narrative. He stated that, coming upstairs to the first floor, the man who had been sent for the brandy, and the man from Backchurch Lane, were opening a box in Mrs Angel’s bedroom; that they seized him by the neck, threw him to the ground, forced open his mouth, poured poison down his throat, saying mockingly “There is your brandy.” Then they asked him whether he had any money, and he replied that he had nothing but the sovereign which he had given the first man to buy brandy with. “Where,” they proceeded to ask him, “was his gold watch?” He replied that it was in pawn, and indeed a pawn ticket for a watch was found in his coat pocket. They threatened him that if he did not give them the watch he would soon be as dead as the woman on the bed, meaning Miriam Angel, and according to his showing they crammed a piece of wood between his teeth to serve as a gag, knelt on his chest, and at last threw him under the bed, where he lay unconscious. It is but fair to the wretched man now in the condemned cell at Newgate to mention that Mr Calvert, the honorary physician at the London Hospital, found on examining Lipski that there was an abrasion in the inside of his mouth, indicating that some foreign substance had been thrust in; but Dr Redmayne, who had used the stomach pump on Lipski, said that the abrasion might have been caused by the instrument in question. Did he struggle while the stomach pump was being used? All that the defence could urge was that, although Miriam Angel had undeniably been killed by nitric acid, there was not sufficient evidence to show that Lipski was the man who bought the pennyworth of corrosive fluid on the morning of the murder, and there was an entire absence of motive so far as Lipski was concerned for the commission of so horrible a crime.

The jury, however, took the view shadowed forth in his summing up by Mr Justice Stephen; that the murderer of Miriam Angel entered her room under the influence of unlawful passion; that, baulked in his design, his passion turned to homicidal fury; and that in a reaction of shame and terror he had taken a dose of the same poison that he had given to his victim. If this theory was probable, continued the learned judge, the murder was much more likely to have been the work of one man than of two. So the jury thought; and they found that the one man was Israel Lipski, and that he was guilty of the cruel murder of Miriam Angel.”

Strange to say Lipski’s counsel was convinced that the condemned man was innocent and exerted himself to obtain evidence to prove him so. So urgent was he that the Home Secretary respited Lipski for a week in order to give his solicitor time to bring proof. Lipski, however, confessed that he did the deed before the week was out and was therefore executed. It was supposed that he must have surprised his victim asleep as she was a young woman of robust physique and more than a match for the puny wretch in a fair struggle.

Execution Dock
If you were to stand on the centre of Tower Bridge today, and glance to the east, your eyes would fall upon the site of East London’s most infamous hanging area – Execution Dock.  Execution Dock was used for over 400 years by the Admiralty courts to execute pirates, smugglers and mutineers that had been sentenced to death. As the Admiralty was responsible for crimes that had been committed at sea (either abroad, or in home waters) the dock symbolised that jurisdiction by being located just beyond the low-tide mark in the river. The “dock” consisted of a scaffold and short rope for hanging, and was to be found off the shoreline of the River Thames at Wapping. The final hangings on Execution Dock were for two men called George Davis and William Watts. Both individuals were charged with piracy and were executed on December 16, 1830.

When an individual was charged with piracy they would be held in Marshalsea Prison in Southwark. The Marshalsea was an infamous private prison, located on the south bank of the River Thames.
Marshalsea Prison
From the 14th century until it closed in 1842, the prison housed a wide variety of prisoners, particularly men under court martial for crimes at sea and ‘unnatural crimes’. Any found guilty and subsequently sentenced to death by the Admiralty Court would be paraded from the prison over London Bridge, (Tower Bridge had not been built at this time), past the Tower of London and down towards Wapping where Execution Dock was located.

The procession of the condemned man would be headed by the High Court Marshal on horseback who carried a silver oar representing the authority of the Admiralty. Prisoners would be transported in a cart to Wapping, and they would be accompanied by a chaplain who encouraged them to confess their sins.

To reflect the severity of their crimes, the condemned were subjected to a cruel and lingering death. Unlike an execution at Tyburn, hanging would be done with a shortened rope. Instead of a long drop breaking a prisoner’s neck, he would suffer a slow and agonising death from strangulation on the scaffold. As the body twitched and jerked, onlookers who had lined the Wapping shore nicknamed the spasms ‘The Marshal’s Dance’.
Execution Dock Gallows

It was not uncommon for onlookers to charter a boat on the Thames in order to get a better look of the hanging.  The bodies of pirates at Execution Dock were not immediately cut down once the execution had taken place and it was customary for these corpses to be left hanging on the nooses until at least three tides had washed over their heads.

 

The infamous Captain Kidd, who had subsequently been convicted of piracy and murder, was executed at the dock in 1701. However, during his execution, the hangman’s rope broke and Kidd was actually hanged on the second attempt. His remains were tarred and were placed in an iron gibbet alongside the River Thames at Tilbury for years as a dire warning to any other potential pirates, as to what fate awaited them.Gibbet after Execution Dock

Whilst the modern day location of the actual scaffold of Execution Dock is a little hazy, a 1746 map shows the ‘Execution Dock Stairs’ at Wapping,  whilst the present day sites of a building at Swan Wharf, 80 Wapping High Street, and a public house named ‘The Captain Kidd’ at 108 Wapping High Street are both strong contenders.

Sidney-Street-Seige
Just over one hundred years ago, deep in the East End, a pitched gun battle took place in Sidney Street, a thoroughfare just off the Whitechapel Road. The Siege of Sidney Street, which was often called the “Battle of Stepney”, was a notorious gunfight that broke out on 3 January 1911.

It is believed that the protagonists had been responsible for the Houndsditch Murders where, on 16 December 1910, a gang attempted to break into the rear of a jeweller’s shop at 119 Houndsditch.

An adjacent shopkeeper heard the gang hammering to get through the wall, informed the City of London Police (in whose area the shop was), and nine unarmed officers — three sergeants and six constables (two in plain clothes) arrived on the scene. Two officers were hit, and one, Bentley, collapsed across the doorstep. Another officer, Bryant, managed to stagger outside. In the street, Constable Woodhams ran to help Bentley, but was himself wounded by one of the gang firing from the cover of the house, as was Sergeant Tucker, who died almost instantly. The gang then made their escape via the cul-de-sac at the rear of the building.
Sidney Street under Seige

A few weeks later, on 2 January 1911, an informant told police that two or three members of the gang – possibly including the gang’s leader, Peter Piatkow also known as ‘Peter the Painter’ – were hiding at 100 Sidney Street, Stepney. Concerned that their suspects were about to flee, 200 police officers cordoned off the area and the siege began.

At dawn, on the 3rd January, the battle commenced. Although the gang were heavily outnumbered, they possessed superior weapons and a great deal of ammunition. Word was sent to the Tower of London asking for backup, and news of the siege reached the then Home Secretary, Winston Churchill, who arrived on the spot to observe the incident at first hand.

Churchill gave authorisation for the calling in of a detachment of Scots Guards to assist the police. Six hours into the battle, a cannon that Churchill had authorised turned up at Sidney Street, when it was noticed that a fire was beginning to consume the building. The fire brigade arrived promptly, but Churchill refused to give them any access to the building.

The police stood waiting, with their guns at the ready, expecting at any moment that the men inside would attempt their escape. However, the door to the building remained closed. Instead, the remains of two members of the gang, Fritz Svaars and William Sokolow (both were also known by numerous aliases), were later discovered inside the building. No sign of Peter the Painter was found. Besides the three policemen, a London fire-fighter also died of his injuries.

The Kray Twins
So much has been written about the notoriety of the Kray Twins that it is difficult to separate fact from fiction, but the salient points of the lifestyle and rise to fame of the East End ‘Firm’ are detailed below.

Ronnie Kray, together with his twin brother Reggie grew up in the East End during wartime.  The twins had a Romany/Jewish background and their father, Charles, spent most of the time during war years avoiding armed service by keeping on the move. As a result, the twins were raised by their mother, Violet. Violet was so fiercely protective of her ‘wonderful boys’ that she turned the family home in Vallance Road into a safe haven – a place that came to be known as ‘Fort Vallance’.

Krays with Violet and Jimmy Lee
The twins’ grandfathers Cannonball Lee and Jimmy Kray came from a boxing background and were to prove hugely influential upon the twin boys. Ronnie and Reggie, together with their elder brother Charles became accomplished boxers, and as a result of unlicensed bouts against local rivals, the twins’ street reputations became enhanced.

From the very beginning it became apparent that the twins strength was their fierce allegiance to each other – if you picked a fight with Reggie, then you were picking a fight with Ronnie and vice versa. However, it became apparent from an early age that Ron was somewhat slower and less flamboyant than his brother. Ronnie soon began to develop his own fantasy world that centred on a desire for unquestioning leadership.

Their national service was spent mainly in the Military Prison for assaulting NCOs or going AWOL, and they eventually emerged from Shepton Mallet military prison well prepared for a lifetime of challenging any form of authority.

As a result of the many disputes over what they saw as their ‘territory’, the twins decided to stake a claim in a local business. By the time the twins had reached the age of 20, they had taken over a local billiard hall, The Regal, on the Mile End Road and entered a hazy area between security and extortion.

While he was at the billiard hall, Ronnie began to play out the most dominant of his many fantasies, that of being a gangster. It was in 1954 that Ronnie cutlassed members of a Maltese gang that tried to extract protection money from them, and their reputation for violence was established. The twins began to gather a collection of villains around them, with Ronnie dreaming of creating his own empire, a powerful criminal “Firm”, with him and Reggie at the head. Ronnie soon became known to his followers as “the Colonel”.

The Krays soon linked up with Billy Hill, who introduced them to gambling just in time for the legalisation of the industry in 1961. Ronnie and Reggie moved up West – and most of Ron’s fantasies of creating his own crime empire started to come true.

The increasing levels of violence associated with the Krays dealings continued. Whether it was to impose their control over clubland or dealing with recurring feuds between rival gangs, the twins had reputations to protect.

As The Krays bought their way into clubs and gambling establishments in the West and East Ends of London, they started to gain some legitimacy by befriending sportsmen and showbiz personalities, and started to become linked with the 1960’s socialite scene.

the-blind-beggar-pubB&W

The Kray twins had many criminal contacts all over Britain and had worked hard to buy their protection from contacts in many police stations, presenting  an outward appearance of being smart, well-connected – and untouchable. However, it soon became apparent that Ronnie was only able to thrive on conflict, and things were coming to a head. In 1966, Ronnie marched into the Blind Beggar pub saloon bar and shot dead George Cornell, an old enemy in full view of the occupants. Despite every detail of the killing being seen, the twins influence and control over the local population meant that no one would come forward to act as a witness and identify the murderer to the police.

As the Sixties progressed, Ronnie and Reggie became even more convinced of their immunity from any authority. Together, they arranged the escape of Frank “Mad Axeman” Mitchell from Dartmoor Prison (and were later acquitted of his murder). They even contemplated forming an alliance with the Mafia, and looked abroad to expand. But Ronnie’s mental condition was deteriorating and the responsibility for running the firm fell to Reggie, who remained completely devoted to his brother.

However after his wife, Frances Shea, committed suicide, Reggie went to pieces, and with Ronnie’s encouragement he murdered a troublesome fringe member of the firm. The killing of Jack (“the Hat”) McVitie was to be a turning-point. According to one of their former henchmen, Albert Donoghue, Ronnie egged his brother on to kill Jack “The Hat” McVitie, a small time crook and irritant to the brothers. “I’ve done mine,” Ronnie supposedly told Reggie. “About time you done yours.”

McVitie had been lured to a party in Hackney, where he was accused of damaging the Kray name, and stabbed to death by Reggie. Members of the Firm were left to clean up the mess while the body was disposed of.
Kray Twins

The twins could no longer be ignored, and under pressure The Firm began to crumble. Following a police investigation which took the Krays off the streets (as the result of evidence provided by an informer working for the United States Treasury) witnesses to the killings of both Cornell and McVitie were found.

Many of their own gang of thieves and hard men gave evidence against the twins when they finally appeared at the Old Bailey at what was seen as a show trial in 1969. The sentencing judge, Mr Justice Melford Stevenson passed sentence that they should be jailed for life, with a recommendation that they serve at least 30 years.

Ronnie, was eventually certified a paranoid schizophrenic in 1979 and served out his sentence heavily medicated in Broadmoor.

Ripper-Street-Header
Ripper Street was a BBC Television series set in Leman Street Police Station, Whitechapel in London’s East End in 1889. The initial story takes place just six months after the infamous Jack the Ripper murders.

The principal characters in the series are played by Matthew Macfadyen, Jerome Flynn, and Adam Rothenberg. The very first episode was broadcast on 30 December 2012 and it began a run in the United States on BBC America a couple of weeks later. A second series of Ripper Street returned for an eight-episode run which started on 28 October 2013
Ripper Street

The first series began in April 1889, a few months after the last Jack the Ripper killing in October 1888, and the newly formed H Division of the Metropolitan Police is operating out of Leman Street. Tasked with policing over a mile and a quarter of East London, it has to cope in a district with a population of 68,000 destitute and homeless individuals. The policemen of H Division had already spent much time hunting Jack the Ripper, but had failed to find him. When more women begin to turn up on the streets around Whitechapel, in a manner reminiscent of the Ripper killings, the police start to wonder if the killer of the previous autumn has returned.

The Leman Street police station and “The Brown Bear” public house that are featured in the series are still there in Leman Street, and the Jews Orphan Asylum which forms much of the backdrop to series one still exists. The Asylum was renamed and relocated first to Norwood in South London, and then to Stanmore in North London.

Jack-the-Ripper-cropped
Jack the Ripper
is a name that will forever be associated with the East End of London. It is a name that has both fascinated and confounded generations of police, the public, and Ripperologists. Even today, over a century since the gruesome East End murders took place, the public’s imagination with this elusive killer persists. Numerous TV programmes and Films featuring Jack the Ripper as their principal subject abound.

So what do we know about the subject? Countless Jack the Ripper books exist for the individual who wants to investigate this subject further, but an outline of the facts is laid out below.

Illustrated_Police_News_-_Jack_the_Ripper_21A series of murders took place in the dark and largely unlit streets of London’s East End and these were investigated with increasing urgency by Scotland Yard in the autumn of 1888. The victims were all women, and were linked by a common Modus Operandi – the gruesome disfigurement of their bodies by the murderer, who was never identified. The individual became known as Jack the Ripper principally because of a letter sent to Scotland Yard, apparently signed by the murderer. The identity of Jack the Ripper has been a mystery ever since.  Whilst modern investigation techniques and forensic science have advanced since those days, it is still true that an apparently motiveless murder by a stranger committed in a public place out of the sight of witnesses is still difficult to solve today.  There have been a number of attempts to clearly define those murders attributed to the Ripper, but the five listed below are accepted as being the work of one individual…

Friday 31 August 1888

Mary Ann Nichols

Buck’s Row, Whitechapel,

Saturday 8 September 1888

Annie Chapman

Rear Yard at 29 Hanbury Street, Spitalfields.

Sunday 30 September 1888

Elizabeth Stride

Yard at side of 40 Berner Street,
St George’s-in-the- East.

Sunday 30 September 1888

Catherine Eddowes

Mitre Square, Aldgate, City of London.

Friday 9 November 1888

Mary Jane Kelly

13 Miller’s Court,
26 Dorset Street Spitalfields.

MaryJaneKelly

The murder of Mary Kelly, in November 1888, was accompanied by mutilation of such ferocity that it beggared description, and, for once, left the press short of words to adequately describe it – a poor quality grainy picture is all that modern Jack the Ripper investigators have to study – and the body is so badly mutilated, it is barely recognisable.

The Suspects
Because of the way in which the victims’ bodies were mutilated with a sharp knife or scalpel, some medical knowledge or skill at wielding a knife (for example, as a butcher) rapidly became one of the principal criteria for suspicion.   The four main suspects can be listed as:

Aaron Kosminski – a poor Polish Jew resident in Whitechapel;

Montague John Druitt- a 31 year old barrister and school teacher who committed suicide in December 1888

Michael Ostrog, a Russian-born thief and confidence trickster (he went by many aliases) who was believed to be 55 years old in 1888, and who had been detained in asylums on several occasions

Dr Francis J. Tumblety – a 56 year old American ‘quack’ doctor, who was arrested in November 1888 for offences of gross indecency, and fled the country later the same month.

Druitt, Ostrog and Tumblety

Druitt, Ostrog and Tumblety

So – why ‘Jack the Ripper?

The name that we have been left with for these crimes, ‘Jack the Ripper’ is easy to explain.   It was written at the end of a letter dated 25 September, 1888 and sent to the Central News Agency on 27 September, 1888. The agency – having had it in their possession for two days, forwarded it to the Metropolitan Police on 29 September.
Dear Boss letter

The letter was written in a florid, loose script and began “Dear Boss……” It went on to talk of “That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits……” (The name ‘Leather Apron’ was attributed to a John Pizer, briefly suspected at the time of the Chapman murder).   “I am down on whores and I shan’t quit ripping them till I do get buckled…” ­­­and so on in a similar vein.   The signature at the end of the letter, ‘Jack the Ripper’, was then made public fuelling the agitation and hysteria that had now gripped the East End.

The dual murders that subsequently took place on the 30 September 1888 gave the letter even greater importance and as if to underline it, the unknown writer once again committed red ink to a postcard sent on 1 October.  In this communication he referred to himself as ‘Saucy Jacky…‘ and spoke of the “double event…….” He again signed off as Jack the Ripper….