CHARLIE KRAY: He was nicer than you think, says our man McGibbon
By ROBIN McGIBBON, ghost-writer of Me and My Brothers, Charlie Kray’s autobiography
To millions who never met Charlie, he was the murderous Kray twins' older brother, and every bit as wicked as them. As he'd explain to anyone willing to listen, this was the cross he'd had to bear since their convictions and imprisonment. Just how heavy that cross was didn't hit home to me until one afternoon, in the summer of 1989, after I arrived at the Daily Express for my afternoon shift. One of my colleagues, a likeable, but strongly-opinionated Glaswegian named Bill Montgomery, who knew I was ghosting Charlie's story, asked how it was going.
"Extremely well, thanks," I said. "We've just done a few hours in the garden."
"In the garden?"
"Yeah. Charlie loves the sun. We always go in the garden when we can."
"At your place?"
"You allow that man in your house?"
"Of course, I do," I said. "We're working together."
"But he's one of the Krays, Robbie. They murdered people, for God's sake."
"Charlie didn’t," I said, quietly.
"He may not have wielded the knife that killed McVitie, but he got rid of his body."
"No, he didn't. Charlie had nothing to do with McVitie's murder. He was fitted up."
"That's what he says," Bill scoffed. How do you know he's telling the truth?"
"How can you be so sure he's not? You've never even met the man."
"And I don't f----ing want to."
"Because he's a Kray?"
"Yeah," Bill said. "If you want to put it that way. They're all f---ing gangsters."
"Charlie wasn't a gangster, Bill. The twins were the gangsters."
"They're all the same, Robbie, Bill said. "All the same."
I didn't want to waste time having a row with a man with a closed mind, so I forced a smile. "Let's agree to disagree, Bill. Let's leave it there."
And we did. We never spoke about Charlie – or his book – again. But that conversation played on my mind and brought into focus the enormity of Charlie's torment. If a seasoned sub-editor, responsible for writing headlines and editing reporters' copy in a national newspaper, believed he was every bit as nasty as the twins, what price the paper's millions of readers? If a journalist with 40 years' experienced detested him so vehemently, without having met him, what hope did that give Charlie?