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Wednesday, 11 October, 2000, 15:27 GMT 16:27 UK
End of an era
Free wreath
One wreath summed up the feelings of many mourners
As 1960s underworld legend Reggie Kray was laid to rest in the East End, BBC News Online's Chris Summers mingled with the mourners.

Walking along Bethnal Green High Road on Wednesday morning a tourist could be forgiven for thinking they had walked onto the set of another Lock, Stock And Two Smoking Barrels sequel.

Never before have I seen so many fat necks, shaven heads, broken noses and gold pinkie rings gathered in one place.

The Krays wearing smart suits
Besuited brothers: Britain's best-known gangsters
One of the mourners, businessman Roy Shaw, had known the Krays when he and they were both causing mayhem for the East End police in the 1960s.

He was jailed for 18 years in 1963 and bumped into Ronnie again when both were moved to Broadmoor.

"We grew up in the same era. They were into protection rackets and I was into blags. I never got in their way and they never got in mine," he said.

Today is like the end of an era - the Krays were legends

Roy Shaw
"Ronnie was more of a friend than Reggie, but I've come along today because he was one of the 'chaps'.

"Today is like the end of an era. The Krays were legends."


Shaw said Kray came from an era before drugs became common currency, when there was "honour among thieves" and few criminals double-crossed their friends.

Men in black
Men in black provided security along the funeral route
He said: "In those days there was loyalty. Nowadays they are all having each other over all the time."

Alfie Hutchinson, 64, used to box with the Krays at the Repton Boys' Club around the corner from their home in Vallance Road.

He told BBC News Online: "We used to run around together with our arses hanging out."

Mr Hutchinson said of Reggie: "There was arguably more respect for him. Ronnie was more forceful, whereas Reggie was more of a gentleman."

I wondered if I would find dissent from the mutual admiration society on the other side of the road, where the ordinary people stood and watched.

'He never hurt women or children'

But Tia Paul, 23, from Bethnal Green, had nothing but admiration for a man who had been in jail since nine years before she was born.

"He didn't hurt women or children, did he? He wasn't a danger to the likes of us. The people he killed were in the game themselves, weren't they?" she said.

Goodbye Reggie banner
A café next door to the undertakers shows its sympathies
Her friend, Karen Jackson, said: "He kept control of crime. Nowadays there are so many different gangs, always killing each other and street crime is much worse."

Lisa Halil, who co-owns a café in Bethnal Green High Road, said: "When they were around we didn't have paedophiles, rapes, muggings. I get cocaine being sold outside my shop."

But not everyone sees that period of East End life through rose-tinted spectacles.

The man who caught the Krays, retired Superintendent Leonard "Nipper" Read, said in local paper the Hackney Gazette: "To suggest they exercised some kind of domination over crime in the East End, so street crime and house burglaries were reduced is absurd.

'Greedy and wicked man'

"The regime of the Krays served only to reduce the East End to a hotbed of crime."

Lenny Hamilton, who was tortured with a red hot poker by the twins, told the same paper: "I will remember Reggie Kray as a greedy, wicked and manipulative man."

Bethnal Green pensioners Barbara, Rose and Vi did not agree.

Hero wreath
To some Kray was a "working class hero"
Barbara told BBC News Online: "He was not as bad as they made out. They should never have been in jail that long.

"When they were around you could at least walk the streets of Bethnal Green at night."

Rastafarian Granville Henry had travelled down from Luton, Bedfordshire, for the funeral. He described Reggie as a "working class hero".

He said: "He had the balls to do what he did and he took on the establishment."

The funeral cortege - led by a horse-drawn carriage carrying the coffin - travelled up Vallance Road to St Matthew's Church where the gangster royalty, led by "Mad" Frankie Fraser, got out and filed into the pews.

Reggie Kray funeral
Reggie was given a traditional East End send-off
There was no sign of Barbara Windsor but the world of show business was represented by actor Bill Murray from The Bill.

As the cortege pulled away from St Matthew's Church, a ripple of applause burst out and a few cries of "Goodbye, Reggie".

It was the end of an era.

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See also:

01 Oct 00 | UK
Last of an infamous trio
01 Oct 00 | UK
Reggie Kray dies
26 Aug 00 | UK
Reggie Kray to be freed
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