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The BBC's Christine Stewart
"There's been talk of a news conference and even a book launch"
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Friday, 22 September, 2000, 21:02 GMT 22:02 UK
Kray's first taste of freedom
Wife Roberta and Reggie Kray
Kray, at his brother Ronnie's funeral, with wife Roberta
Dying former gangster Reggie Kray has been enjoying his first night of freedom in 32 years after being allowed to leave hospital and move to a hotel.

On Friday morning the 66-year-old was driven in a private car from the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital, where he has been receiving treatment for inoperable bladder cancer.

Kray, released from prison on compassionate grounds last month, has been taken to a hotel on the outskirts of Norwich.

What he really wanted was to look at the river

John Brunton, friend

It was widely thought he would die in hospital after doctors gave him just weeks to live, but his solicitor Mark Goldstein said Kray's condition had stabilised, allowing him to be moved.

Kray celebrated his freedom by sipping Dom Perignon champagne with his 41-year-old wife Roberta.

Associates say he chose the Town House hotel in Thorpe St Andrew because it overlooks the river Wensum and he has not seen running water since he was jailed.

"What he really wanted was to look at the river," said Kray's friend and local publican John Brunton, 52, who is helping to organise Kray's own security at the hotel.

He said: "As soon as he arrived in the room we drew back the curtains so that he could enjoy the view.

Funeral plans

"Water is something he has been desperate to see simply because he hasn't seen it for 32 years."

Mr Brunton said Kray had eaten two sandwiches and enjoyed a glass of scotch as well as champagne to celebrate his release.

"He is delighted with the way he has settled in."

Mr Brunton said Kray knew he was dying and had planned his funeral, but added he might speak to journalists next week after a weekend of rest.

The continuing support provides the strength to battle against the cancer

Mark Goldstein, solicitor

He said: "He is resting. We want people to respect his wishes. He doesn't want a media circus."

Kray was jailed for life in 1969 for the murder of Jack "The Hat" McVitie, who was stabbed to death in a north London flat.

Home Secretary Jack Straw authorised his release on 26 August because of his deteriorating health, ten days after he was moved to hospital.

'Breathing space'

Mr Goldstein said Kray had been "overwhelmed" by the number of cards and telephone calls from well-wishers.

He said: "This is his first day of freedom and I would hope that the press and media for the next two or three days will give him some breathing space.

"He would like everyone to know that the continuing support provides the strength to battle against the cancer," he added.

Reggie Kray
Kray was jailed for a gangland murder

Kray and his twin Ronnie - also convicted of murder - led one of the UK's most notorious criminal gangs, exerting a mafia-style grip over London's East End in the 1960s.

At their trial, judge Mr Justice Melford Stevenson said: "In my view, society has earned a rest from your activities."

Ronnie suffered a fatal heart attack in jail in 1995. A third brother, Charlie, died in April after falling ill in Parkhurst prison.

Mr Brunton appealed for Kray to be allowed to recuperate in peace.

He said: "We are hoping that this will give him a matter of months rather than weeks.

"This is freedom for him. If he is strong enough we are hoping friends will come to see him."

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See also:

28 Aug 00 | UK
Last of an infamous trio
26 Aug 00 | UK
Reggie Kray freed
04 Apr 00 | UK
Charlie: The quiet Kray
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