“So how did your son Michael become a bullfighter in Spain?” I asked former Krays associate Micky Fawcett in the bar of the May Fair Hotel in London last week.
“Well, in the late 1970s,” Micky told me, “I was having a bit of trouble with the gendarmes in London so, around Christmastime, I got in a car to Spain with Michael, his mother and his mother’s sister. We got a flat out there. I had been in Spain before – with Billy Hill.”
“Why were you with Billy Hill?” I asked.
“He wanted to see me because he had pulled that masterstroke which I mention in the book.”
Micky’s autobiographical memoir Krayzy Days goes way beyond his days with the Kray Twins, Ronnie and Reggie.
“I was out with Reggie in Mayfair one night,” Micky told me, “and we went to go in the 21 Club in Chesterfield Gardens and they wouldn’t let us in, so Reggie chinned the doorman and we went off to the Astor Club in a bad mood. The Astor was in an alley behind where we’re sitting now.
“Reggie owed lots of money in income tax at the time. He had just given me Esmerelda’s Barn (a Knightsbridge club) and said: You take it over. I dunno if you can do anything with it. Sell it to someone or something.
“And, down at the Astor, we saw this guy called Murphy. He was a rick.”
“A rick?” I asked.
“He sits in at the game in a casino but he’s working for the house. Cheating. All the cards are marked. And Reggie said to this guy: You might be able to do something with Mick here. And the guy said: I don’t do anything without I contact The Old Professor.”
“The Old Professor?” I asked.
“Billy Hill,” said Micky. “Anyway, Reggie was furious. It was another knock back to him that night. So we went in the office at The Astor and Reggie phoned Billy Hill and said: Listen. We’ve got somebody here who says he can’t do any business with us unless he gets the OK from you.
“And Bill said: Bring him round straight away.
“So we threw the guy in the car and took him round and Bill told the guy: Get in the kitchen, you. I’ll deal with you in a minute. Then Bill said to Reggie: Can I just throw him out? For old times, sake, eh, Reg?
“And Reggie said: No, he’s going in the River.
“And Bill said: No, Reg, think about it. This will be the last place he’s ever been seen. Just for old times sake, eh? I’ll just throw him out.
“So Reggie said: Go on, then.
“And Bill went in the kitchen. A bit of noise. – Oh! Agh! Ugh! Ah! – All over the top. And Hillsy came out and said: I just kicked him up the arse and threw him out. Here you are Reg. And he gave Reggie a brown envelope. Wot’s this? says Reggie.
“There’s a monkey in there, said Hillsy.”
“£500?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Micky. “And Billy told Reggie: It’s a gift. It ain’t nothing. We’ll be friends.
“So Reggie said: OK. And he took it because he didn’t have any money at all. He was skint.
“Anyway, about 48 hours later, I’m round Vallance Road (where the Krays lived) and Hillsy phones up. He says: Reg, I’ve got a problem. Can you get me some help?
“So Reggie gets a few of the more fierce-looking characters around. He didn’t give me nothing. I’d had nothing out of the £500. He said to me: Mick, you stay here and man the phone in case anything goes wrong. And away they go.
“A couple of hours later, he comes back and he ain’t saying very much. Eventually, I ask him what happened and he says: It was a false alarm, really. He was up there playing cards with some of his mates – the waiters out of the local restaurant. Foreigners.”
“So what was the problem?” I asked.
“Well, I’m going to tell you,” said Micky. “I tell Teddy Machin about it and he tells Hillsy who says: Oh yeah. I know Mick. He came round here with Reggie. Bring him out here. I’d like to meet him. He was in Spain by then. He used to be back and forward to Spain. He used to get about. He’d been to South Africa. So I got on the plane and went out to Spain.
“And it turned out they hadn’t been waiters. They had been alarmed at the Twins moving in to the 21 Club and chinning the doorman.
“The 21 Club was one of the top casinos in the country. They were a bit concerned cos they were running the gambling in London. Someone wrote a book about it. (The Hustlers: Gambling, Greed and The Perfect Con and there was a 2009 TV documentary titled The Real Casino Royale and a Daily Telegraph article.) One of their customers was George Osborne’s uncle.”
“The recent Chancellor of the Exchequer?”
“Yeah. At Aspinall’s, above the Clermont Club, just round the corner from here. They was all crooked. At some point, Billy Hill had said to John Aspinall: You can either blow the whistle and ruin your business or you can include us in it. And Aspinall said: Well, I’ve got no choice, have I? You’re in it.
“The ‘waiters’ who were with Billy Hill when Reggie went round were the Unione Corse who were running the gambling in Mayfair.”
“They were running all the casinos?”
“Yeah. All the casinos were crooked, near enough. They had a system where they could mark the cards. I don’t know how. Nobody did. But they did. And Billy Hill did.
“So, when I went out to Spain, he told me all the story about how it was the Unione Corse. He wined me and dined me a bit. He took me to the Marbella Club and he said: Come over to Tangier. He had a club there as well and they were in Tangier as well. So I went there with him. Boulevard Hassan II was his address there.
“Anyway, that’s how I got the flavour for Spain. And, when I was in Spain, he took me to bullfights.”
“So,” I asked, “when you later went out to Spain with your son Michael and his mother, how old was Michael?”
“Nine. And I said to Michael: I’ll take you to a bullfight. And we did. Then, a few days later, we were on the beach and Michael was messing around with the muleta – the red flag – and he’s playing bullfighters.
“And the fellah who had the concession for that part of the beach was an ex-bullfighter who fought as El Solo. He introduced Michael to other bullfighters. All of a sudden, we were catapulted right into the middle of that sort of thing. The man who ran the bullring had been written about by Hemingway.
“So they have to test the little baby bulls and they see which ones are brave. And Michael was just playing at fighting with the little bulls.”
“There was,” I asked, “no sticking swords or anything else into them?”
“Oh no, no,” said Micky. “Baby bulls. But, while we were there, doing all that, an English woman who was a journalist started making enquiries about Michael and, next thing you know, there’s a picture of Michael in the bullfighting magazine El Ruedo with writing underneath in Spanish all about him. He was 10 years old by then.
“And I didn’t know at the time, but it was also in the Evening Standard in London. So there I am out in Spain trying to keep a low profile and Michael’s got a big picture and article in the big bullfighting magazine and in the Evening Standard back in London – and it was even in the local paper The Stratford Express.”
“He must have been proud,” I said, “aged ten.”
“Nah,” said Micky. “He didn’t care. He said: Oh no! It’ll spoil my image! Cos he was into music.”
“How long did this go on for?” I asked.
“A few months, I suppose. What happened was I then ran out of money.”
“So you had to come back to Britain?”
“Well, no. Not quite.”
“Is this,” I asked, “when you ended up in jail in Belgium or somewhere?”
“Worse,” said Micky.