The Murders that Finished The Krays
Jack Dennis McVitie, also known as ‘Jack the Hat’, was an associate of the Kray twins, but never a fully-fledged member of The Firm. He was a notorious criminal in the 1950s, and by the beginning of the 60s was also trafficking drugs. He was associating with Ronnie and Reggie Kray by this time, who used him for various criminal activities. He had met Reggie in prison, and had always wanted to be a member of The Firm – his growing drink and drug problem prevented this however, and he became increasingly unreliable and loud-mouthed. By 1967, his arrogance was getting the better of him, and on occasions he became abusive towards the twins. He was going around and causing trouble and threatening to harm or kill people in many of the local clubs – clubs that were either owned by friends of Ronnie and Reggie, or by people who were paying them protection money to keep this kind of problem away from their businesses. The Firm started receiving regular complaints about McVitie, and this was embarrassing for Ronnie and Reggie.
A payment of £500 was made by Ronnie Kray to McVitie in 1967. This was half the money in advance for Jack the Hat to kill Leslie Payne – Kray’s old friend and business partner. However, McVitie was unable to pull off this murder, but he kept the down-payment anyway.
Jack McVitie was invited to a party in Stoke Newington, London, on 29 October 1967. There would be various underworld guests and their families attending. This was a setup from the start. The Kray twins arrived there early and cleared away most of the party-goers. The stage was set for the demise of Jack the Hat. Reggie Kray’s original plan was to shoot McVitie as he entered the party. This went awry as the gun he was using jammed. Instead, Kray acted quickly and began stabbing Jack in the face, stomach and chest during a violent struggle between the two of them. The twins then fled the scene of the murder, and the body was left to be disposed of by Chris and Tony Lambrianou and Ronnie Bender. They wrapped the body and left it outside a church in Rotherhithe, London.
George Cornell was born George Myers in Stepney, London in 1927. He was a criminal and member of The Richardson gang – rivals to the Kray’s Firm. He was a prominent lawbreaker during the 1960s, at first running credit rackets, then moving up to become an enforcer for Charlie and Eddie Richardson. Cornell was sentenced to prison on several occasions, for larceny, wounding, and malicious damage, amongst other things. He knew of, and had met the Kray twins, but had never been good friends with them. For a short time he became criminally involved with The Firm, but changed his allegiance in 1964 when he defected and joined The Richardsons. Cornell was a fairly heavy drinker, and everyone knew to stay well away from him if he had been drinking. He was allegedly heavily involved in drug dealing, and also in pornography distribution. Personality-wise, he was extremely unstable and unpredictable. He was generally used as an enforcer by The Richardson gang, and would, on occasion, have talks and meetings with the Krays in various London pubs.
There have been several stories of the feud between Ronnie Kray and Cornell – including one where George knocked Ronnie unconscious at the Brown Bear pub (this was according to a story from Lenny Hamilton). Another one is that Cornell called Ronnie a ‘fat poof’ – though whilst in Broadmoor, Kray denied this was true.
On 9 March 1966, Cornell and his friend Albie Woods were visiting another of their friends in hospital, who had lost one of his legs in a shooting. After leaving the hospital they decided to go for a drink to The Blind Beggar pub on Whitechapel Road. A third friend joined them there, by the name of Johnny Dale. At the same time as this, the twins were having a drink with members of The Firm in another pub called The Widow in Tapp Street – just a short distance from The Blind Beggar. Someone informed Ronnie of Cornell’s whereabouts, and Kray decided to take Ian Barrie and Reg’s driver, John Dickson along with him to The Blind Beggar – stopping off briefly on the way at Valance Road to pick up some guns. Ronnie and Ian Barrie entered the pub at around 8:30 pm and approached Cornell. Apparently, George’s final words were “Well, just look who’s here”, before Ronnie Kray calmly blasted him in the forehead with a 9mm Luger, then turned and walked out. Approximately two hours after the shooting, George Cornell died at Maida Vale Hospital, London.
On 4 March 1969, at the Old Bailey, Ronnie Kray was unanimously found guilty by a jury of the murder of George Cornell, whilst his twin brother Reggie was also found guilty of murdering Jack McVitie, who was killed the year after Cornell. Both of them were sentenced to life imprisonment.
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