(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)
“We were going to kill Reggie Kray. I had a .38 revolver and we were waiting for him late one night….”
“The first time I came here was with Sonny Liston,” he said, when we met.
Micky was born in 1937 in London’s East End. “But I’ve never really got on that well with Eastenders,” he told me. “I don’t like the culture. I’m not a very good mixer.
“I passed the 11-plus exam, but I didn’t like schooling. I took up schoolboy boxing and had loads of jobs, some just for a day – you could just walk in and out of jobs then, just for a day. Eventually, I got a job on a fruit stall – a barrowboy – and I quite liked that. It was in Aldgate, which was a great place in the 1950s.
“In those days, barrowboys ruled the world. Families ran big fruit stalls around Upton Park. They were bullies, criminals, flash, they had big cars. It was a bit like New York at the start of the 20th century. I got to know a few of the lads round there… They used to go to various pubs and clubs around and one of the places was a club in Bow Road called The Double R.”
It was called The Double R because it was owned by Reggie & Ronnie Kray, the now-iconic London gangsters.
“I spent a good ten years associating with them,” Micky told me. “I was very, very involved with the Twins but, when they shot Georgie Cornell, that was it for me. I’d had enough of the madness. Before that, I’d thoroughly enjoyed it. It was like being in a film. I wasn’t doing it for money. Yeah, Get enough money to go out tonight. But it was like good fun. Great fun. Big men in cars driving up and down the Mile End Road.”
“You were in your twenties?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Micky. “It went on until 1966, when Cornell got shot. But I was getting fed up with the Twins before that. I knew they were going to reach a limit and I couldn’t see what they were going to do once they got past that. They didn’t have the ability. They were terrible judges of character. You couldn’t tell them anything. You couldn’t advise them, unless they came to you. Reggie’s wife was seeing another fellah just before she married him and he came to me about that. I handled it and I got on very, very friendly with the Twins, but they were…”
“You said they wanted to be something more than what they were capable of being,” I interrupted. “What did they want to be?”
“They wanted to be the Al Capones of London,” said Micky. “They were hooked on publicity. I’ve been involved in the boxing game as a manager, so I know the feeling when you drive up in the middle of the night to buy Sunday’s papers to see what they’re saying about the night before. I understand that. But the Twins were so hooked on it and you must always remember that Ronnie was insane. Completely raving mad. Totally insane and I never used to stop laughing day and night. It was hilarious.”
“But occasionally violent,” I said.
“Yes, I’ve been in some bad fights and shootings and stabbings and I’ve been wrongly arrested for bombing,” said Micky.
“Because…?” I asked.
“I had a fight with a family called the Tibbs,” he explained.
“It’s possibly unwise to have a fight with the Tibbs,” I said.
“Well,” said Micky, “it was unwise of them to have a fight with me. And there was another family called the Bennetts before the Tibbs, where somebody got shot and somebody else got stabbed and that sort of thing.”
“But, at some point,” I said, “you got wrongly arrested for a bombing.”
“Oh yes,” said Mickey, “and I was arrested for a shooting ten years after it happened.”
“Was that one of the Tibbs?” I asked.
“No, the Bennetts,” said Mickey. “I didn’t shoot him. The feller I was with shot him. I was in the fight. I had a knife and he had a gun… I have to say I’m really not into putting that about and saying Oh, I done this and I done that. I’m genuinely not into that at all. But you asked and these things happened. Maybe that’s why I don’t like the East End very much. There’s always somebody wants to have a go at you. It’s not that friendly old East End image.”
“So who was bombed?” I persisted.
“It’s all in the book,” said Micky. “I had the most intensive efforts to arrest me. I was actually in Brixton Prison, charged with attempted murder. Then I was arrested again and went to Belgium for a while. Then I came back and was arrested at the airport on a warrant for causing explosions with intent. That was dropped.
“What was happening was that the Tibbs family were getting bombed and they couldn’t get their hands on me, so they were screaming their heads off to the police. They had the police straight. They were metal dealers and, in those days, metal dealers always had the police straight.”
“The Richardsons were scrap metal dealers, weren’t they?” I asked.
“Yes. They had the Old Bill (the police) straight as well,” said Micky. “There was a metal firm at Bromley-by-Bow and the police used to get jobs there. He used to give them jobs, then that safeguarded him because, in those days – it wasn’t that long after the War – there was loads of scrap metal around. So they could go out, collect all the scrap metal, take it to the dealer and, if he employed policemen, the dealer didn’t have to worry about getting turned over by the police. His Head of Security would be an ex-Chief Inspector or something.”
“Police corruption never changes,” I said.
“No,” said Micky. “The Twins had wanted to sign up young Jimmy Tibbs, who was a very good boxer and his father came to me and said Mick, can you do anything for us? He told me I had a lorry load of whisky in the yard the other night – stolen, obviously – but I didn’t have much to worry about, because I had a police squad car outside, minding it for me all night. You can’t beat people like that.
“So, when I had the row with the Tibbs family, I had a row with the Metropolitan Police as well – a section of them. Eventually, I had a fight with one of the Tibbs and he got his throat cut. So they wanted to kill me and they’re chasing round attacking people who had nothing to do with it, smashing into people I don’t even know. Then there were a few serious attempts on them. A bomb was placed in the yard; another bomb was under Jimmy Tibbs’ motor car.”
“And it went off?” I asked.
“Oh yes,” said Micky. “Serious attempts. Bombs going off. And a few shootings. Teddy Machin got shot and killed. Micky Machin got shot. Then I was arrested and alleged to have been the instigator of the whole thing. It came back to me that the Tibbs had said Our Old Bill will fit him up with ten sticks of gelignite when they get their hands on him.
“I’d already been fitted up twice by the Old Bill. Once after we had a row with the Bennetts, when a feller got shot. Me and another guy were going along in the car one day… Police cars with bells going… We’re boxed in and dragged out, slung in the back of a police car… and they gave me an iron bar, celluloid, stockings for masks… and they said they found them all in my car.”
“Did you go down for that?” I asked.
“We were in West Ham police station and a friend of mine said to me in a bit of Romany, a bit of Yiddish, a bit of rhyming slang, he said to me We’ve got nothing to worry about. We’ve had a talk and we’ll bung ‘em £200 and they’ll leave it as Being in Possession of Offensive Weapons – a 3 month sentence – not being charged with Conspiring To Rob – a 5 year sentence. So we gave them the £200, did the three months and that was that.”
“Why did you write the book?” I asked.
“I’m 76 on Thursday and you start looking back a bit and thinking I wonder why this? and I wonder why that?
“For literally years, I’d been annoyed by the books I had read about the Krays and the things people said: glorifying them, building them up. It’s ridiculous. Reading all the rubbish that had been written, motivated me to write my book. I wanted to write a book saying what idiots the Twins really were. And how amusing.
“Monty Python and Michael Palin did a brilliant… That nail-the-head-to-the-floor thing came from headlines in the Daily Mirror. But it was a foot that was nailed to the floor and it was the Richardsons. They did it with a knife to a feller. But the Krays were getting the blame for it.”