Inside Kray twins’ brutal crimes of ‘utter madness’ as ex-henchman tells all

More than 50 years ago, Chris Lambrianou found himself in the dock alongside Britain’s most infamous gangsters – the Krays.

One of their henchmen in the Firm, he had helped Ronnie and Reggie Kray dispose of the body of their slain rival, Jack “The Hat” McVitie.

Chris spent 15 years in various maximum security prisons after being convicted of McVitie’s murder.

But having gone straight since, he tells the Daily Star he regrets ever getting involved with the Kray twins.

“Every day in prison was a battle,” says Chris, who is now 82.

“I left my 16-month-old daughter Angie behind.

“I felt like I was going to be stuck in prison for the rest of my life and considered taking my own life.

“There was so much rage running through me – I wasn’t happy about being sent down for murder when I hadn’t raised a hand on the man.

“If I could have gone back in time I wouldn’t have got involved with the Krays. My whole life would have been totally different.”

McVitie was killed by Reggie at a party in Stoke Newington, north London, in October 1967.

High on drugs and alcohol, the twisted Kray first tried to shoot his rival but after the gun jammed he launched a frenzied attack, stabbing McVitie repeatedly in the face, chest and stomach.

After the twins fled the scene, Chris and his brother Tony, as well as another member of the Firm called Ronnie Bender, were tasked with taking McVitie’s body and left it outside a south London church wrapped in a quilt.

McVitie’s corpse was never recovered and it’s thought the Krays’ friend Freddie Foreman later threw him from a boat into the sea off the coast of Sussex.

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And looking back, Chris describes McVitie’s public killing as “utter madness”.

He adds: “Reggie killed a man while drunk and high on speed pills in front of several witnesses, with two young children sleeping upstairs.

“It was like when Ronnie killed George Cornell at The Blind Beggar in front of a load of people the year before.

“To walk into a public place and shoot a man dead like that just isn’t sensible.

“Most people I knew in the underworld were people who didn’t publicise what they were doing.

“With the Krays, it was almost like they wanted to get caught. It was utter madness.”

Chris is one of several ex-Krays’ associates speaking in a new documentary about the notorious pair.

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The three-part series, Secrets of The Krays, chronicles the rise and fall of Reggie and Ronnie from their humble beginnings in London’s East End to how they built their criminal enterprise and ended up serving life in jail for murder.

It uses unseen footage and material such as Reggie’s personal scrapbook, where he kept press clippings of the their crimes to show how they climbed the social ladder, rubbing shoulders with stars including Judy Garland and Barbara Windsor, who was married to the twins’ nightclub owner pal Ronnie Knight.

Since their crimes in the 1960s, there has been an enduring fascination with the Krays, and the show’s ­executive producer Nathaniel Lippiet puts this down to the fact that they were good at finding publicity and fame.

“They loved it and they courted it,” says Nathaniel.

“The Krays combine a lot of things that people are fascinated by – there’s the morbid interest in crime.

“But also the fact they were twin brothers who had this interesting and unique relationship, they were a big part of the Swinging Sixties and they had an association with celebrities we know and love.”

But despite the fact the Krays were “glamorous”, the team behind the documentary were keen not to glorify the late gangsters for their crimes.

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Nathaniel says: “The Krays loved the glitz and glamour, it was one of their defining characteristics.

“However, you do have to acknowledge the other side – the victims, the
violence and the destruction.

“And we were careful to be balanced and show both sides of the story.

“In the documentary we do talk about the darker side of what the Krays did to their associates and how they let them down and we did have contributors, such as Chris, who knew them talking about that in the series. Some of them were keen to say that the legend of the Krays isn’t what we think it is.

“And that these guys were violent thugs that caused a lot of pain.”

And Chris, who donated his fee for Secrets Of The Krays to charity, agrees people shouldn’t revere the brothers, adding that the idea of the Krays being successful is a “fantasy”.

“They’re seen as legends and there’s this whole industry around the Krays with people selling things like books and T-shirts,” says Chris.

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“With the killing of McVitie, they involved so many people and didn’t clean up after that they did, they ran away.

“And Ronnie died in Broadmoor and Reggie died in hospital, only having been let out of prison because he had a couple of weeks to live.

“Everyone thinks they’re these wonderful gangsters, but it’s all a fantasy. The Krays weren’t very successful.”

After he left jail, where he became a born-again Christian in 1983, Chris, now retired, went worked as a quarry manager and labourer.

Also keen to use his experiences to prevent others from embarking on a life of crime, he also worked at The Ley Community, a drug rehabilitation centre near Oxford and has helped out with the probation service to rehabilitate young offenders.

“My whole family suffered when my brother and I went to prison – we let a lot of people down and I let myself down,” adds Chris, who now lives in Oxfordshire. “It really shows that 100%, crime doesn’t pay.”

●Secrets Of The Krays launches on BritBox on Thursday. See britbox.co.uk

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