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Saturday, 26 August, 2000, 18:02 GMT 19:02 UK
Reggie Kray freed
Reggie Kray - third left
Kray (centre) was allowed to attend his twin brother's funeral
Former gangster Reggie Kray has been freed from jail on compassionate grounds after 31 years.

But doctors say that Kray, who is suffering from terminal cancer, is too ill to leave hospital.

The 67-year-old is being treated for inoperable bladder cancer at Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.

His wife Roberta, who is staying with him at the hospital, said he was conscious and able to speak but would not be leaving in the "immediate future".

"There are mixed emotions today," she said. "I'm pleased that he has got his freedom. It is something he has been waiting so long for. But he is seriously ill."

"However we're hoping that he will able to get out for a few days."

The Home Office said the decision to release Kray followed confirmation from a hospital consultant that his condition was terminal and he is not expected to live more than a matter of weeks.

"We are satisfied that there is no risk of him committing further offences," a spokesman said.

Reggie Kray
Kray: Handcuffed throughout funeral

The serious nature of Kray's condition became apparent when an operation for bladder cancer revealed several inoperable secondary tumours.

Kray's lawyer Trevor Linn had appealed to the home secretary to release his client from prison as he may have only days to live.

Mr Linn wrote to Jack Straw to request Kray's release on compassionate grounds to allow him "the dignity to die in peace at home".

Prisoners can apply for compassionate release under section 36 of the 1991 Criminal Justice Act, but they must meet strict criteria showing they have an exceptional case.

Anne Osborn, acting chief executive at the Norfolk and Norwich hospital, said Kray was currently too ill to leave the hospital.

Kray had been serving a life sentence at Wayland Prison, Norfolk, for the gangland murder of Jack "The Hat" McVitie.

Private address

Before Jack Straw's ruling, Mr Linn said Kray would spend his last days at a private address with his wife if his release was granted.

But a Home Office spokesman said: "Mr Kray will be on life licence which will govern where he can reside."

Reggie Kray and his twin brother Ronnie were sentenced in 1969 to not less than 30 years in prison for two murders.

Ronnie was convicted of the murder of George Cornell, who he shot in the Blind Beggar pub in east London.

Reggie stabbed McVitie to death in a north London flat. Ronnie was also convicted of the murder.

Ronnie died of a heart attack, aged 61, in 1995 in Broadmoor.

Reggie was allowed out of prison in handcuffs to attend the funeral.

The twins' elder brother Charlie died in April, aged 73.

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