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Sunday, 1 October, 2000, 13:30 GMT 14:30 UK
Last of an infamous trio
The Krays: Enduring icons of the 60s
As the last member of the Kray crime dynasty dies after a battle against cancer, the great British obsession with geezer chic shows no sign of waning.

In the 1960s, one family's name conjured up the cruelty and the glamour of a life of crime.

The Krays wearing smart suits
Icons: The besuited brothers
Reggie Kray, who died on Sunday, and his late brothers Ronnie and Charlie, dominated the London underworld and courted the darlings of the entertainment world as friends.

Snapped by photographer David Bailey in their heyday, the sharp-suited, hard-faced Krays became an enduring image of the 1960s.

Today, the Kray name remains synonymous with gangster chic.

Yet their grip on the East End crime world loosened more than 30 years ago, when an Old Bailey judge sent down Reggie and Ronnie Kray for murdering two of their gangland rivals.

Loveable rogues

Popular mythology has long since glossed over the brothers' brutal legacy of protection rackets and murder, instead elevating them to the status of loveable rogues.

Frankie Fraser: 'Everyone loved the Krays'
After all, goes the argument, the Krays only ever harmed their own.

In recent years, Reggie Kray became the poster boy of "laddism", writing columns for lad mag Front and penning lyrics for the aptly-named US band, Fun Lovin' Criminals.

"Everyone in the East End loved the Krays," former associate, "Mad" Frankie Fraser, said.

"No woman got mugged, and no children were tampered with."

Fraser, himself a convicted criminal with a penchant for torture, cashed in on the appetite for gangster chic, running a tour which retraces the Krays' steps for camera-toting globetrotters on the scent of decades-old blood.

Among the stops is the Blind Beggar, the Bethnal Green pub where Ronnie Kray shot gangland rival George Cornell for allegedly calling him a "fat poof".

Popular support

In sentencing the twins in 1969, Justice Melford Stevenson said: "In my view, society has earned a rest from your activities."

Lad mags
Popular heroes: Lad mags idolised the Krays
Yet a couple of decades on, society started to clamour for their return. In 1993, several hundred people marched on Downing St to present a 10,000-signature petition calling for the Krays' release.

Supporters included Barbara Windsor, of the BBC soap EastEnders, Roger Daltrey of The Who, and the actress Patsy Kensit.

Young Patsy is proud to lay claim to geezer credentials herself - her uncle knocked about with the Krays, her brother is Reggie's godson and since her divorce from Liam Gallagher she has dated Jamie Foreman, the son of another criminal legend Freddie Foreman.

Lock, Stock and scrapping the barrel

When the celluloid biography The Krays hit the silver screen in 1990, British gangster flicks were few and far between.

Guy Ritchie with Brad Pitt, star of his his latest feature
Guy Ritchie and Brad Pitt: Wannabe geezers
Yet that all changed in the late 90s, due in large part to writer-director Guy Ritchie's Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, in which four likely lads take on the hard men of the East End.

Ritchie, a public school-educated west Londoner, has adopted the trappings of a bovver-boy lifestyle with relish and typically refers to his partner Madonna as "the missus".

Lock, Stock's box office bonanza resulted in a glut of gangster-themed films, such as Essex Boys and Love, Honour and Obey.

Ritchie himself stayed on the gangster gravy train with Snatch, his second slickly-shot ode to hoodlums on the make, which was released earlier this month.

Publishers, too, rushed out stacks of books penned by reformed crooks.

The autobiographical Stop the Ride, I Want to Get Off, by Kray sidekick "Dodgy" Dave Courtney, sold respectable numbers, as did The Guv'nor, by the bare-knuckle fighter and gangland legend Lenny McLean.

Convicted felons or no, the antics of those prepared to cut up rough for the readies prove endlessly fascinating to Britons - when viewed from a safe distance, of course.

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See also:

26 Aug 00 | UK
Reggie Kray freed
04 Apr 00 | UK
Gangster Charlie Kray dies
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