Tag Archives: Piranha Brothers

The girl who loves gangsters the Kray Twins and imprisoned Charles Bronson

Sarajane at the Kray Twins’ grave in Chingford, East London

A few weeks ago, I got an email from Sarajane Martin which said:

“I am aware this may be a long shot but I’m a 21 year old Fine Art student living in London, studying at the University of Westminster and I am in the process of writing my dissertation…”

She asked if I could help her with something. Alas I could not, but I can spot a good blog subject when I see one, so we had a tea and coffee this week. She handed in her dissertation today.

Sarajane: I was born in a moving car going at about 80 miles an hour. My dad kept driving and he said he heard the sound of a child being born behind him. He turned round and me mam was sat there with me and he was fucking flying and he just kept going.

John: He was on his way to the hospital?

Sarajane: Yeah. He ran in and he said: Me wife’s had a baby in the car! And they told him: You are drunk, sir. Please go! And he’s like: For fucksake! My wife’s just had a baby!

John: It was unexpected, then?

Sarajane: Yeah. Afterwards, me dad went back to the house to get things for me mam, like pyjamas and stuff, and the second he hit the spot when I had come out, where he heard that noise, Pretty Flamingo by Manfred Mann came on the radio and he sang it all the way to Durham, thinking about his new daughter. He sang it to me my whole life. I have a tattoo of a flamingo on my leg and it says Daddy and he’s got one on his.

John: When Ron Kray shot George Cornell in the Blind Beggar pub, there was a jukebox playing, wasn’t there?”

Sarajane: Yeah. It was playing The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore. Ron said, the second he shot him, it went: The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore… Anymore… Anymore and it jammed. How weird is that?

John: What is your BA (Hons) dissertation called?

Sarajane: What Does Performance Art Contribute To The Myth of The Criminal?

John: What DOES it contribute?

Sarajane: Well, if I’m being totally honest, I just said ‘Performance Art’ because I’m an art student and I had to connect it to art somehow. I wanted to write about gangsters and bad boys an’ that.

John: In her autobiography Handstands in the Dark, Janey Godley says that old-time Glasgow gangsters were like actors. They were putting on a performance of being gangsters.

Sarajane: It’s right, that. It IS a performance, like it’s not real. I got interested in criminals. I think it’s a thing we all do.

Sarajane Martin at Soho Theatre in a T-shirt

John: You have a Kray Twins T-shirt on.

Sarajane: Ultimate gangsters.

John: Criminals are bad people.

Sarajane: I know. It’s not that I think they’re nice people. I just find them more interesting than good people. That’s just a human reaction, isn’t it?

John: Any specific reason?

Sarajane: I know exactly why. I have two older brothers. The oldest one is 37. I’m nearly half his age. I’m 21 and I’ve done much more than he’s ever done because he has just like been in prison his whole life near enough. Petty stuff. Gone with the wrong crowd. Daft. Stupid. A rolling stone.

He would write me letters when I was a kid. I remember seeing it was an HMP (Her Majesty’s Prison) envelope and I was buzzing, thinking it was really cool. My brother in prison had sent me a letter! I was thinking of this when I was writing a letter to Bronson.

John: Charles Bronson, the criminal.

Sarajane: Yes.

John: He’s changed his name again, hasn’t he?

Sarajane: Yes. Charles Salvador.

John: Some women get married to long-term prisoners.

Sarajane: People start to write to a person because they know that person’s a murderer.

John: Why would they want to write to someone who has killed people?”

Sarajane: Because they see the good in people. They say Ron Kray was mad. But he was ill. Nowadays, he wouldn’t have lived like that. It was such a different time.

John: There are still psycho killers around today, though.

Sarajane: Yeah. Yeah. But they’re treated differently.

John: Have you seen The Piranha Brothers in Monty Python?

Sarajane: No.

John: People say the East End of London was safer when the Krays were around. They only killed their own, not ordinary people.

Sarajane: Yes. In a Fred Dinenage book, Ron is quoted as saying he wanted to kill George Cornell. He says he had shot people before but he did it just to maim not to kill. With George, I wanted to. I walked in there and wanted to kill him. That’s mad.

John: You are from the North East of England. There are loads of hard men up there.

Sarajane: Yeah. But Northerners are wankers.

John: Are you sure you want that quoted?

Sarajane: I’m a Northerner, so I can say it. They’re just not very interested in the world around them.

John: If this were 1963 or 1965, would you have thought of marrying Ron Kray?

Sarajane: Probably. (LAUGHING) I don’t think Ron would have done what he done if we had met. (LAUGHING) I don’t think Ron would have been that interested in me. They reckoned when Ron liked someone, that was it. Someone said: You would hear that the Krays were coming and all the good-looking lads would piss off. They knew Ron was on the way.

John: You just fancy bad boys.

Sarajane: I don’t fancy Bronson or owt like that. I just love ‘em, you know what I mean? I don’t fancy them. It’s not like that.

John: You would not marry Bronson but you love him?

Sarajane: Yeah, but in a different way… Appreciation…

John: …of what?

Sarajane: I don’t know.

John: You appreciate his art?

Art by Charles Bronson was controversially displayed at Angel station, London, in 2010

Sarajane: I do. I love his art.

John: It IS interesting.

Sarajane: Do you know he sent a Get Well Soon card to the girl who lost her leg in Alton Towers? (When a rollercoaster crashed at the amusement park.) Bless him.

John: I hate to say this, but Hitler was an artist.

Sarajane: And Joseph Goebbels was about five foot high and used to wear high heels when he was in photos. What a weird thought.

John: You graduate this year. What are you going to be?”

Sarajane: I felt I knew before I started the course.

John: What did you think back then you were going to be?”

Sarajane: Famous. That was the only thing I wanted. I wanted to come to London and be famous. Like Bronson. Go into prison and become famous.

John: Really?

Sarajane: No. I’m joking. I always just wanted to be a painter. I was going to be pure punk and drop out of Art School and just be a failure. And then I thought: No, I can’t go my whole life saying Oh, yeah, I dropped out of Art School.

John: Have you done any art inspired by the Krays?

Sarajane: I’m saving it for my degree show. I want it to be like you feel the presence of the two of them.  Possibly something like two life-sized sculptures which show the difference in their characters.

John: So what are you going to do when you leave university this year?

Sarajane: I haven’t got a clue. All I know so far is I’m going to Nuremberg and to The Berghof. And Nürburgring. Do you like Formula One racing?

John: I’ve never seen it live.

Sarajane: I like the old 1970s Formula One, me. Much cooler. And they were much more ‘for it’. Now it’s all money and there’s no, like, courage in the game. In the 1970s, they were like right up to death, looking it in the face: We don’t care. Niki Lauda is one of my heroes. His crash happened at Nürburgring. He was on fire. They had to put a thing in his lungs and like vacuum his lungs and he did it more than once. He was that much of an animal he was like: Do it again. It doesn’t even hurt that much, man: do it again.

John: You’re just looking for the ultimate bad boy.

Sarajane: He’s not a bad boy, though. He’s just a total nerd who had an accident.

John: You’re attracted to death and punk. It’s Goth Art.

Sarajane: Goth’s dead. I’m pure punk. I’m pure 1970s punk, me.

Sarajane Martin – work in progress

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Filed under Art, Crime, Performance

Krayzy Days – the Kray Twins, bombs, Monty Python and police corruption

(A version of this piece was also published on the Indian news site WSN)

Krayzy Days by Micky Fawcett

The Krays – they were idiots & amusing

“We were going to kill Reggie Kray. I had a .38 revolver and we were waiting for him late one night….”

That is the first line in Micky Fawcett’s extraordinary memoir Krayzy Days about the era of London ‘gangsters’ the Kray Twins. I met him yesterday at the May Fair Hotel in London.

“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.

Reggie Kray, Micky Fawcett, singer Lita Rosa, Ronnie Kray, actress Barbara Windsor & actor Ronald Fraser

Reggie Kray, Micky Fawcett, singer Lita Rosa, Ronnie Kray, actress Barbara Windsor and actor Ronald Fraser in 1960s

“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.

Ronnie Kray, boxer Sonny Liston, Micky Fawcett

Ronnie Kray, boxer Sonny Liston, Micky Fawcett in 1960s

“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?

Entrepreneur Steve Wraith and Micky Fawcett recently

Entrepreneur Steve Wraith (left) and Micky Fawcett recently

“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.”


Filed under Crime, Police