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Ronnie and Reggie Kray: who were the Kray twins, and what is ITV series ‘Secrets of the Krays’ about?

ITV’s new three-part docu-series explores the lives of two of the UK’s most feared gangsters in history

Secret of the Krays is a three-part documentary series that delves into the lives of two of Britain’s most notorious criminals in 1960s London.

Produced exclusively for BritBox, it explores in detail how the Kray twins, Ronnie and Reggie Kray, created their criminal empire.

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But who are the Kray twins and when is Secrets of the Krays on ITV?

Who were the Kray twins?

Ronald “Ronnie” Kray and Reginald “Reggie” Kray were identical twin brothers born in 1933, in Haggerston, East London.

From the late 1950s until 1967, the twins were perpetrators of organised crime with their gang, known as the Firm, being involved in murder, armed robbery, arson, protection rackets and assaults.

In March 1952, the twins were called to do National Service in the British army, but tried to leave soon after. After they were reported to the depot of the Royal Fusiliers, they were stopped in their tracks, but Ronnie punched the corporal in the jaw.  The twins went home and were picked up by the army in the morning.

Throughout their time in National Service, their behaviour was violent and disruptive, and they often went absent without leave (AWOL).

On one occasion while AWOL, the pair assaulted a police constable who tried to arrest them, and were later court martialed.

In 1954, both were dishonourably discharged and were sent to a civilian prison to carry out their sentences for crimes they committed whilst being AWOL.

In their childhood, both brothers took up amateur boxing, inspired by their maternal grandfather, Jimmy “Cannonball” Lee, but their promising careers in boxing ended after the pair got criminal records and dishonourable discharges from the Royal Fusiliers.

By the end of the 1950s, the Krays had been involved in arson, hijacking and armed robberies through which they managed to  attain nightclubs and other properties.

After acquiring Esmeralda’s Barn through warding off threats of extortion to landlord Peter Rachman, the twins began to mix with celebrities and politicians.

Being acquainted with the likes of Diana Dors, Judy Garland and Frank Sinatra resulted in the Krays becoming regarded as celebrities in their own right - as well as the UK’s most notorious gangsters.

In the series, Ronnie is quoted saying: “In the 60s, the Beatles and the Stones ruled the music world; Carnaby Street ruled the fashion world and me and Reg ruled London. We were fu**ing untouchable.”

But by the end of 1967, Detective Chief Superintendent Leonard Read had collected evidence against the Krays and in May 1968, the twins and 15 other members of their gang were arrested. In March 1969, both twins were sentenced to life imprisonment.

Ronnie Kray died in March 1995 from a heart attack whilst in Broadmoor Hospital. Reggie Kray died in October 2000 from bladder cancer, eight and a half weeks after being released on compassionate grounds.

What is ‘Secrets of the Krays’ about? 

Secrets of the Krays aims to uncover new details about the Kray brothers, by taking a deep dive into their activities.

Episode one follows the definitive account of their rise, reign and fall featuring exclusive interviews with friends, former gangsters and relatives of the twins.

The interviewees include David Bailey, a world-famous photographer, former gangster Chris Lambrianou and Nemone Lethbridge, the twins’ barrister.

With reference to a range of materials, including Reggie’s scrapbook detailing their criminal endeavours, the series explores not only the brothers’ crimes but the bond they had, and their desires to become rich and famous, while also being feared.

The three-episode series unfurls how the two twins constructed their criminal enterprise and how it was demolished, as well as the glamour that became associated with them as they mixed with prominent entertainers of the decade.

Three-part documentary series, Secret of the Krays, will be available to watch on 25 January, and is on weekly on Tuesdays, at 9pm on ITV.

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