Secrets Of The Krays: True Crime Documentary Drops On BritBox
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Featured Image Credit: ITN/BritBox
We've all heard of the Kray twins - notorious East End gangsters Ronnie and Reggie who dominated London with their now infamous protection racket, but also courted the glittering world of showbiz and became celebrities in their own right.
The story of how the dangerous pair wrestled their way to the top of London's seedy underworld may be commonplace, but now viewers can gain brand new fresh insight into the twins in BritBox's new series, Secrets of the Krays.
The three-part series sees filmmakers have access into the inner workings of the Kray's criminal enterprises, through never before seen artefacts, audio recordings and MI5 files as well as interviews with a number of the Krays' associates - some of which have never spoken before on record.
One of the people we hear from in the series is Maureen Flanagan - a former Page 3 model who was the "most photographed woman in Britain" in her heyday. Having been introduced to the Kray family as a hairdresser to Violet, the family matriarch, Maureen, now 80, remained close- even visiting Ronnie and Reggie after they were imprisoned for murder in 1969.
"Violet was so lovely, she was so proud of her twins," Maureen tells Tyla. "She was a typical, loving East End mum. The twins were extremely close to her, and respected her.
"I was introduced to the twins as I used to do Violet's hair every Thursday afternoon. I got to know a lot about them over the years."
Maureen believes the twins, particularly Ronnie, who suffered from paranoid schizophrenia, were akin to Jekyll and Hyde figures. Always immaculately dressed in smart full suits (taking inspiration from the gangster films they used to watch avidly as children), both Reggie and Ronnie were warm, charming and really quite likeable.
"They could be so generous," she explains. "All the women in the East End knew how generous they could be. They were always stopping in on women who had babies to give them money to help look after them.
"They would provide the boxing club, where they trained as teenagers, with lots of equipment and goods. They were always very respectful.
"But they always had their eye on new businesses to see how there was some little way to get into something, and make money from it. They could be very mercenary. They muscled in on anything and everything people had."
Having both been blessed with the gift of the gab, then, it's fairly easy to see how the Krays quickly rose to the top of their crime empire - which involved arson, armed robbery and murder - and became celebrities in their own right, photographed by David Bailey and even being interviewed on television.
But it was their violent tempers and sheer brute force that saw the numerous pubs and clubs around London try and keep on the twins' good side, often paying extortionate sums of money every week to 'The Firm' - a practise that the Krays called 'the milk round'.
"Both were so likeable to sit and talk to," Maureen says. "Especially Ronnie, who was the most generous person.
"But let's call it how it is - Ronnie was insane. He was a paranoid schizophrenic. He'd have these flashes of insanity. There'd be a couple of friends laughing and joking in the pub, and Ronnie would be convinced they were laughing at him. He could then flash into these murderous rages."
While their reputation was fearsome across London, the twins hid everything they could from their mother, Maureen said, in order to keep her out of trouble.
Having learned that Violet had saved Ronnie's life when he was just two years old, after a severe bout of diphtheria, both of the Krays were deeply protective of their mother - to the point they would have killed for her.
At age 14, when Ronnie discovered his father, an alcoholic, was abusing his mother, he beat up his old man - and told him if he was to ever touch Violet again, he would "kill him".
Maureen believes that their overarching respect for their mother was what gave Krays their unusual code of ethics; they were hugely violent - even to the point of murder - to men, but they never would harm women or children.
"They would differentiate between murders," she says. "Ronnie was in Broadmoor at the same time as the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe.
"I was visiting him once and Ronnie suddenly urged me to change seats. I asked why and he said the Ripper was staring at me, and he didn't want him to look at me.
"Ronnie hated the Yorkshire Ripper. In his own words, he called Sutcliffe 'a coward and a slag' because he killed women. Ronnie said that the Ripper wouldn't fight men, which is why he picked on women.
"They were both hugely respectful to women and children. They didn't even allow swearing in front of them."
The Krays were convicted for their numerous crimes in 1969, and were both sentenced to life in prison.
When their mother died in 1982, having suffered from cancer, the twins were briefly released from prison in order to attend the funeral.
And while Maureen doesn't sanction the Kray's numerous violent crimes and acts, she promised her close friend Violet that she would remain in contact with the twins for the rest of their lives.
"When she was dying, she was like, promise me you'll still visit my two boys. Please. Keep on visiting," Maureen explains.
"I certainly didn't condone the twins' actions. It could have been my dad, my brother and son.
"But it was my friendship with Violet that made me stay in touch with the twins. When I make a promise, I keep it."
All three episodes of Secrets of The Krays are available exclusively on BritBox.
Topics: True Crime, Documentaries, TV News, TV & Film
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