Ron (left) and Reg Kray in their younger years. Pen and Sword /

By Tom Dare

THE SHOCKING BRUTALITY and violence of London’s historic gangs has been laid bare in a new book examining the role of organised crime in the capital.

Investigating the impact of gangsters in London in the 50s and 60s, London’s Gangs at War, by ex-police officer Dick Kirby, pulls no punches as it looks in depth at some of the most infamous names from the criminal underworld.

1950s gangster Jack ‘Spot’ Comer. Pen and Sword /

Murder, torture and extortion all feature prominently as Kirby looks at some of the most famous incidents from the post-war era, using old police reports, court and newspaper records to give an accurate portrayal of what life was like at the time of the Kray’s and the Richardson’s.

And Kirby says it was the gangsters’ portrayal of their own experiences that prompted him to start researching the book.

“I got a little fed up with ‘gangster books’ in which the person concerned trivialises, boasts about or justifies their crimes,” he said

“Matters are not improved when offences for which they were acquitted at court, amidst howls of police malpractice, they now claim that they were, in fact, guilty of. And therefore, I wanted to show the reader the true facts of the cases in which they figured.”

The Blind Beggar pub in East London, where the Krays used to drink regularly. Pen and Sword /

Kirby says he poured over the accounts of several London gangsters as research for his book, before comparing what he’d read to official documents to get the real truth behind the legends.

And what he found, he says, was that the glamorous reputations that gangsters such as the Kray twins enjoyed in London were often misguided.

So-called woman of the underworld Zoe Progl. Pen and Sword /

“I read the books which the Krays and their hangers-on had written; then, for comparison, I checked police reports, court & newspaper records and spoke to the police officers who were there at the time, to get at the truth,” he said.

“What I found out about the twins were that they were self-serving, ruthless and murdering bullies.

“The most harrowing of the stories was undoubtedly the Richardson Torture Gang, though, who used their particular talents to utterly humiliate and denigrate their victims for their own gratification.”

The Krays’ investigation team at the trial’s conclusion. Pen and Sword /

So does Kirby see any parallels between the gangsters of the post-war years and the gangs that patrol London’s streets today?

“There’s little difference in the gang culture nowadays from the 1950s and 60s; the problem is that the police are hampered with nonsensical rules and regulations as well, of course with political correctness and ‘elf n’ safety rules, so that little is done to contain gang violence.

“It’s only when police officers get real leadership and guidance from their senior officers that law and order on the streets will be reclaimed. Because the majority of senior officers see themselves as politicians, eager for advancement or inclusion in the Honours List, rather than police officers with a strong knowledge of the law, who can inculcate dedication and enthusiasm into their subordinates, this can’t happen.”

Albert Dimes and his wife Rosie celebrating after his acquittal. Pen and Sword /